Why has the law changed regarding police bail?
The provisions were brought in to solve the problem of suspects and victims waiting endlessly for a final decision to be made about whether they would be prosecuted.
Previously the police had no limit on how long they could keep a suspect on bail for. This was problematic with suspects being on bail for years before any decision was made regarding whether or not they would be prosecuted. The government in light of this have brought in from April this year, a new 28 day pre-charge bail limit that the police must adhere to. On Monday 3rd April 2017 The Policing and Crime Act made it a legal requirement for the police to limit the pre-charge bail period to 28 days
If the police want to release a suspect on bail with conditions whilst they conduct further investigations they must give them a bail date of within a 28 day period. This can be extended for a further three months if authorised by a senior police officer, or Superintendent rank or above . If any further extensions are to be made they must be considered on application to a Magistrates Court.
Do the new bail provisions work?
Although on the face of it the provisions seem to solve the problem, unfortunately in our view they do not for the following reasons:
Firstly, the bail clock actually stops when the file is submitted to the Crown Prosecution Service for a decision. This means that whilst the file is with the CPS the time is suspended and is not therefore included in the 28 day period. Most involved in the criminal justice system are aware that due to government spending cuts in recent years the CPS are extremely stretched and decisions can often take a long time.
Secondly, in our experience we see far more suspects who, having been arrested, are not being released on bail at all but at released “under investigation” meaning that the police are effectively avoiding the strict bail provisions. Whilst it means that suspects cannot be the subject of bail conditions it also means that the police have no time constraints to complete an investigation.
We have dealt with many clients who are no released and simply left waiting and wondering what might happen in the future. Many of our clients have described how this is often worse than how the situation was previously. There is no requirement for the police to provide an update in relation to the investigation and clients are often left waiting and wondering if they receive a summons or postal requisition or whether the police will knock at their door and arrest them.
This seems to lead to more uncertainty about what will happen and can be very stressful as suspects are left in ‘limbo’.
Have the new bail provisions made matters worse?
It actually seems that the problem the government has set out to solve has been made worse as we already have cases where suspects have been released under investigation in April are still being investigated and are waiting for a final outcome. Suspects who were on bail previously before April still remain subject to the old bail provisions which means at the minute there is no continuity and fairness in relation to all suspects as police are likely to deal with suspects under the new bail provisions first which will delay cases subject to the old bail even further.
It’s not yet clear on how the new provisions will affect suspects being dealt any more quickly than under the old bail, especially with the fact we are seeing most clients being released under investigation. It’s something that only time will tell.
If you find yourself in the position of being arrested or voluntarily interviewed by the police then call us for advice and we can assist you throughout your case. We will also actively chase the police on your behalf in order to obtain further information in relation to the investigation and try to ensure that it does not go stagnant, if you need any assistance please call us immediately on 0161 827 9500 we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.