Policing and Crime Bill and provisions for bail after arrest but before charge

The clear intention is that decisions on pre-charge bail should come under scrutiny.

Following a number of high profile cases in which there were alleged to be long delays before persons waiting on police bail were told whether they would be charged or not, and a joint inspection report in May 20105, by Her Majesty's Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCSPI) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the report amongst other things also found that while decisions on pre-charge bail are being better managed by the police, some cases were taking too long.

 

The Queen's Speech in 2015 promised to improve the criminal justice system by implementing the Policing and Crime Bill, which would create a presumption that suspects will be released without bail unless it was necessary to detain them, and limit pre-charge bail to 28 days. The clear intention is that decisions on pre-charge bail should come under scrutiny.

At present, if a police investigation is continuing, the police can bail you without charge to return to the police station at a fixed time and date. Failure to do so could be a separate offence.

Once charged, the police must release you on bail unless the custody officer reasonably believes that:

  • There is doubt about your name or address; or

  • Detention is necessary to protect you or somebody else; or

  • You will fail to attend court or will interfere with witnesses or the administration of justice.

     

Like the courts, the police are now able to attach conditions to your bail, such as living at a fixed address, reporting to a local police station, obeying a curfew, avoiding named people or places, or providing a financial guarantee for your attendance at court.

If you fail to attend court without reasonable excuse when on bail, you commit a separate offence under the Bail Act 1976. If you break any of the conditions of your bail, you can be arrested and brought in custody to the next sitting of the local Magistrates' Court, who may then take away your bail.

 

Most recently the College of Policing have raised concerns over the impact that the proposed restrictions on police bail will have on police operations and the sharing of information between forces and issues to do with waiting for the Crown Prosecution Service and forensics have also featured in the consultation process but at the end of the day the government seems intent upon introducing limitations.

 

The Policing and Crime Bill is due to start it's Committee Stage in the House of Lords on the 26 October 2016.

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