Home / Insights / Blog / Government Urged to Introduce Cap on Pre-Charge Bail

Government Urged to Introduce Cap on Pre-Charge Bail

Government Urged to Introduce Cap on Pre-Charge Bail

At the Police Federation’s recent National Custody Seminar in Stoke-on-Trent, human rights organisation Liberty held a presentation suggesting that some police forces are holding suspects on pre-charge bail for extended and indefinite lengths of time.

At present, police may keep an individual in custody for 24 hours following arrest; this limit is often side-stepped by releasing them on pre-charge bail, resetting the “custody clock” before asking them to return for interview at a later date.

A Freedom of Information request in May 2013 revealed that, of the 57,000 people out on bail at the time, over 3,000 of them had been bailed for more than six months.

Rosie Brighouse, a solicitor for Liberty, said that an apparent rise in the number of cases where suspects are left suspended “in limbo” could be attributed to a greater demand on custody space – adding there is “anecdotal evidence” suggesting that that some forces require mandatory arrests for comparatively low-level offences such as shoplifting.

“Radical legislative change” needed

Ms Brighouse called for “radical legislative change”, to restrict the length of time suspects could be held on pre-charge bail. She said that individuals who had been held on bail for extended periods are among the among the most frequent callers to Liberty’s advice line; she added that the experience “creates a great deal of stress and anxiety daily of having a potential prosecution hanging over a person’s head”, pointing out also that “Victims are subject to the same uncertainty and the same anxiety – and the same frustration when things take a lot longer than they need to”.

Liberty has proposed that a cap for pre-charge bail of six months should introduced, arguing that a suspect may always be rearrested after the period has expired. Opposition came from those who said that delays obtaining information from partner agencies would make any “deadline” impractical and difficult to meet. Ms Brighouse the introduction of a fixed time scale would instead “focus minds and resources” in a more efficient manner.

The Liberal Democrats are mulling whether to include a time limit on pre-charge bail in their 2015 election manifesto. Senior party figure Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, QC, said “There is sometimes a lack of urgency in police bail cases that is very worrying. Lives are put on hold and grave reputational damage goes unchecked, sometimes for years”.

Public consultation “will not go far enough”

Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Battle of West Yorkshire Police – second only to the Met in terms of the number of individuals it had on bail last summer for over six months – said extended bail “allows us to thoroughly investigate those suspected of committing crime”, and “to ensure that we have pursued every avenue of investigation”.

The College of Policing itself has held a public consultation on the use of bail, highlighting concerns about extended periods, frequent re-bailing, and the imposition of stringent restrictions on an individual’s freedom of movement, which can make it seem as if it is being used as a “quasi-judicial punishment”.

It plans to release updated guidelines based on the feedback, although Ms Brighouse said that, on its own, “will not go far enough to resolve this issue”.

Here at IBB we understand how distressing being accused of a crime can be, particularly if you have never been in trouble with the law before. Our solicitors are there to immediately provide you with the reassurance you need, and our multi-disciplinary teams can tackle situations that have both criminal and commercial aspects.

Call us now in complete confidence on 03456 381381 or for 24-hour immediate emergency representation, on 0330 999 4999. You can also contact us free via Whatsapp on 07899 953415 or Blackberry messenger: PIN 287DA137