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Lawyers question bail legislation

Lawyers question bail legislation

Senior lawyers have voiced their opposition to the Government's "rushed" emergency legislation on police bail.

The Police (Detention and Bail) Bill is being debated by MPs in a bid to counter the High Court's ruling on bail – which effectively stops officers from enforcing bail on suspects for more than four days.

The Bill would prevent officers having to count the time suspects spend on bail as part of the four-day maximum period of pre-charge detention.

But police chiefs said the High Court ruling would have jeopardised the "careful balance" established in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1986.

However, in an open letter, senior lawyers said a culture of "bail and see" had developed within the police, undermining effective investigation before the 96-hour arrest period.

They wrote: "We ask that if changes are to be made to this important area of public law, they take place not as a result of rushed emergency legislation."

Without the emergency legislation, the majority of 80,000 suspects currently on police bail in the UK would have had to be released without charge.

Home Secretary Theresa May defended the need to rush the Bill through Parliament, saying: "The ability to bail suspects is a crucial part of how the police investigate criminals and protect victims."

The emergency legislation is receiving its second and third reading in the Commons.

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