Liberty, the Human Rights and campaigning group, has called for a six month time limit to be implemented in respect of the time people can be kept on Police bail after journalists and others are left on bail for up to two years.
Whilst time limits apply to the amount of time suspects can be detained in a Police station, namely 24 hours with the potential for this to be extended, the same does not apply to Police bail. At present, there are no time limits in relation to the amount of time suspects can be on Police bail with re-bail dates consistently being renewed. This has led to huge numbers of persons being on Police bail for significant periods of time and it is not uncommon for a person to be on Police bail for longer than 12 months.
Reasons given for the length of time persons can be on Police bail range from continuing investigations to communication delays between the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) and the Police, the CPS requesting further information from Police officers and delays relating to the CPS making decisions as to who to charge.
The call for such time limits come as some of those arrested in the Metropolitan Police’s inquiry into alleged computer hacking and bribery face two years of being on Police bail. The investigation appears to be taking so long that the Police force has said it was regrettable that there had been “slow progress in some cases”. The Tuleta and Elveden investigations are part of the inquiries into phone hacking and other alleged criminality by journalists that developed from investigations into alleged phone hacking by former employees of the News of the World.
In respect of the matter, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said:
“There is genuine concern on our part about the length of time that some of those arrested have been on bail. We are doing all we can to conclude matters as quickly as possible but it should be appreciated that the delays are the result of the complex nature of these inquiries. There have been millions of emails, documentation, complex comms data and trails of financial transactions that require painstaking analysis as evidence has gradually emerged. However, it is regrettable that there has been slow progress in some cases.”
Forty people are still on Police bail after being arrested over the last two years by Police officers working on Operations Elveden and Tuleta.
James Welch, Legal Director of Liberty, said:
“Bail is a crucial Police tool, but, with no time limit, people’s lives are being put on hold and ruined by onerous bail conditions with no end in sight. A simple six-month statutory backstop would end the uncertainty and anxiety of having possible prosecution hanging over you indefinitely – and encourage prompt, efficient Police investigations.”
None of those arrested by detectives under Operation Tuleta, the investigation into alleged computer hacking by media organisations, has been charged. Two individuals have been told no further action is to be taken against them, with 19 people remaining on Police bail awaiting further questioning or a decision on whether they will be charged.
Twenty-one journalists and public officials arrested by detectives under Operation Elveden, the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into alleged bribes paid to public officials by journalists, also remain on police bail.