THiRTY-THREE murders have been committed in the past three-and-a-half years in which the prime suspect was out on bail, according to new crime statistics released to the Sunday Tribune.

The revelation has fuelled calls from victim support groups for a review of bail law and practices.

According to the figures, released to this newspaper by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), 71 rapes and sexual assaults have been committed by suspects on bail over the same period.

The data covers the period from the beginning of 2007 to 30 June 2010.

A total of 5,924 non-aggravated burglaries were committed by suspects on bail. There were another 165 cases of aggravated burglaries in the same period. Some 115 murder threats were made by people on bail.

Fine Gael's Charlie Flanagan said the new figures were "truly shocking" and said it was clear the country's bail laws were not working.

"These figures highlight a very real and serious problem with our criminal justice system. It's unacceptable that so many people commit crimes, some as serious as murder, while they are out on bail. The government needs to ensure that the delay between a person being charged and standing trial is minimal."

Flanagan added that it was a commonly-held view among some criminals that, when they knew they were due to be convicted of a crime, they saw no problem with continuing to break the law.

"The view is, 'I might as well be hung for a sheep as well as the lamb'. They know they are going to jail soon so they continue to commit crimes while out on bail. The courts need to have far greater powers to restrict bail. But as we know, the country is already struggling to cope with an overstretched prison system so I imagine this situation, where people are granted bail and then continue to commit crimes, will continue."

Advic, the advocacy group for families of murder victims, has repeatedly called for laws to be introduced to stop people accused of murder being granted bail.

The CSO said the statistics provided were provisional.

Other crimes committed on bail

* 63 prostitution offences

* 31 cases of abandoning a child/child neglect/cruelty

* 790 robberies of an institution or establishment

* 2,673 assaults, including cases of poisoning

* Seven cases of blackmail or extortion

* 169 firearms possessions

* 37 discharging of firearms

* 156 cases of harassment

* 867 cases of fraud or deception

* 25,636 offences while in custody/breach of bail laws

* 2,710 theft/taking of a vehicle