Time limits for police bail- should suspects be bailed indefinitely?

The Home Secretary, Theresa May announced her plans to limit bail for criminal suspects to 28days. Under her new proposals the four week deadline will only be extended in exceptional circumstances. This would require the approval of a magistrate or an officer with rank of superintendent or higher. These reforms will end the practice of bail being extended indefinitely. Many police officers re-bail suspects to undertake further enquiries yet there should be a restriction on how long these enquiries take.

Theresa May stated that “the government is determined to support the police as they work tirelessly to bring justice to victims but it cannot be right that people spend months or even years on pre-charge bail with no oversight. That is why we launched a review to fundamentally re-examine the way pre-charge bail is used and authorised”.

The consultation was released on the 18th December 2014 and the following issues are being consulted upon:

  • Enabling the police to release someone pending further investigation without bail in circumstances where bail is not considered to be necessary
  • Setting a clear expectation that pre-charge bail should not last longer than a specified period of 28 days, as recommended by the College of Policing;
  • Setting the extenuating circumstances in which that period might be extended further, and who should make that decision;
  • Establishing a framework for the review by the courts of pre-charge bail;
  • Considering whether extension of pre-charge bail should only be available in certain types of case, such as fraud or tax evasion, or in all cases where there are exceptional reasons for an extended investigation;
  • Considering how best to enable the police to obtain timely evidence from other public authorities; and
  • Considering whether individuals subject to pre-charge bail should be able to challenge the duration as well as the conditions in the courts.

There are more than 70,000 people on police bail and 5,000 for more than six months. One suspect, a head teacher was on bail for a year after being falsely accused of a crime. These reforms will end the injustice of suspects being bailed indefinitely and placing people’s lives on hold. Many innocent people have been left on pre-charge bail for years before their case has been dropped. Justice delayed is justice denied.

If you are on police bail and would like someone to represent you at the police station then contact a member of a crime team who will be able to assist on 0116 255 4855 (Leicester) or 01509 610 312 (Loughborough). You are entitled to free and independent legal advice at the police station and a member of our team would be happy to help.

If you would like to know more about the consultation or respond to it then please click on the link below which will take you directly to the government website.