Two men have been charged with blackmail in London. The alleged victim is a member of the British royal family.
The two accused men have been remanded in custody with one denied bail following his failed application for bail.
In Ireland, until 2000, such an application would more likely than not have been successful. Even now, following the introduction of the Bail Act 1997, a bail application, if made in Ireland by a person in the position of the London accused men would very likely be successful.
The Bail Act was passed following an amendment to the Constitution of Ireland
(Article 40.4.6) which reads:
Provision may be made by law for the refusal of bail by a court to a person charged with a serious offence where it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person.
Section 2 (1) of the Bail Act reads:
Where an application for bail is made by a person charged with a serious offence, a court may refuse the application if the court is satisfied that such refusal is reasonably considered necessary to prevent the commission of a serious offence by that person.
In Irish and British law the accused men, like all defendants in criminal proceeding, are presumed innocent until proved guilty. The proof must be adduced at the eventual trial, which it is anticipated will take place next year.
In point of fact the presumption of innocence is not particular to Britain and Ireland. The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads:
Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence
Likewise the European Convention on Human Rights has made similar provision.
In Britain the corresponding legislation is the Bail Act 1976.
Under Section 4 of the Bail Act 1976 an accused has a general right to be released on bail unless the prosecution can show there are substantial grounds to believe that the accused may flee or interfere with witnesses or commit a further offence while on bail.
The media reports have not, to date, carried any reports that the prosecution has adduced any such evidence to the courts.