One in six murders was committed last year by someone who was out on bail for another offence, figures disclosed suggest. In 79 out of 462 murder cases, the alleged perpetrator was facing separate charges at the time of the offence, according to statistics obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
Police leaders said the figures proved that a "systemic failure" in the bail process was undermining efforts to keep the streets safe. Their disclosure follows a string of murders carried out by people who had been freed from custody. Nick Herbert, the shadow justice secretary, said: "These shocking figures underline the need for tighter bail laws. Public safety must come first."
In one county, Avon and Somerset, just under half of all those charged with murder in 2007 were on bail for other offences. Three were on police bail, three on court bail and two on both court and police bail. The statistics came from 34 forces in England, Scotland and Wales but did not include, among others, figures from the Metropolitan police, in whose area the most murders were committed last year.
High-profile cases have included that of Garry Newlove, 47, who was kicked to death outside his Cheshire home last summer by Adam Swellings, who had been freed from custody earlier that day. Last week an inquest heard how Garry Weddell, a former police inspector, shot dead his mother-in-law and then committed suicide while waiting to be tried for the murder of his wife, Sandra. In January, when details of his case first emerged, Gordon Brown promised a review, saying: "If any changes in the law are necessary, we will make them."
However, last month it was revealed 60 murder suspects were still walking the streets after being granted bail by the courts. In manslaughter cases the figures were even more stark with 35 suspects out on bail - 85 per cent of those charged. Only six were in custody.
And an early release double murderer.
A convicted murderer from Teesside has been told he will die in prison after strangling and stabbing his wife. Douglas Vinter, 38, was separated from Anne White when he stabbed her to death at his mother's house in February.
The bodybuilder, who was released from prison in 2005 after serving nine years for killing a workmate, later told police "I had my reasons". Vinter, of no fixed address, admitted murder and was given a whole life sentence at Teesside Crown Court.
Vinter, formerly a railway signalman, was jailed in 1996 for the knife murder of train worker Robert Eden, 24, in a railway cabin.