Criminal justice

Pre-charge bail reforms announced

The Home Office today published its response to a consultation on pre-charge bail, which enables police to release a suspect from custody subject to conditions, while they gather evidence or await a charging decision.

New measures will include removing the presumption against use of pre-charge bail.

“The Law Society has long called for action in this area and raised concerns about the accused and victims being left in limbo with no updates on their case for an unlimited time,” said Law Society of England and Wales president David Greene.

“The 2017 reforms to pre-charge police bail were intended to deal with the issue of people being kept on bail by the police for long periods before being formally charged with an offence; people suspected of an offence and kept on bail for extended periods were subject to restrictions on their civil liberties, while investigations could proceed at a snail’s pace, to the detriment of their mental health and well-being, as well as that of victims of crime and witnesses.

“After the 2017 reforms, and in response, the police addressed the bail time limits then imposed by dealing with cases outside the bail system; by using a process of "release under investigation" instead, taking the presumption against bail at its highest, despite the fact that pre-charge bail could still be used where necessary and proportionate.

“With longer time frames proposed by the government and the removal of the presumption against bail - so that the decision to place a suspect on bail will be taken on a case-by-case basis - it will be important to ensure that the police do not fall back into the bad habits of the past and routinely put suspects on bail for extended periods.

“Proper supervision of investigations, by senior officers, must be maintained so that decisions to extend bail come after thorough consideration of the reasons for the delay and that an extended period for investigation is essential.”

“Given the importance of the bill we ask that it should be published as quickly as possible.”

Read the full government consultation response

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