By Martha Odysseos, 28th October 2022
Pre-charge bail provisions – what were the previous provisions in relation to pre-charge bail?
The following provisions were in force from April 2017 until 28th October 2022:
- There was a presumption of release without bail unless the necessity and proportionality criteria were met.
- Suspects could be released on a 28-day period of pre-charge bail which could be granted by an Inspector.
- This period could be further extended to a period of 3 months by a Superintendent
- This could only be further extended by a Magistrates’ Court upon application by the police.
- There were longer time limits for cases designated as ‘exceptionally complex’ such as SFO investigations.
However, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 will bring about changes to the use of police bail. These changes are in force from the 28th October 2022 and should apply to suspects detained on or after this date.
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 – Key Changes
The key changes are as follows:
- The presumption against pre-charge bail will be withdrawn.
This means that each case will be decided by the Custody Officer on its own merits without any presumption for or against bail.
If bail is granted, the Custody Officer can impose conditions. The onus will be on the on police to show conditions are necessary.
The Custody Officer will need to seek and consider, if practical to do so, the views of the alleged victim (if any) before imposing conditions that may have an impact on the alleged victim.
This will also be a consideration if the suspect or police are applying to vary conditions.
- Time limit for suspects being released on pre-charge bail is extended
The initial time limit for suspects being released on pre-charge bail has been extended from 28 days to 3 months.
There are now two further extensions available. Approval from an Inspector or above will be needed for an extension from 3 to 6 months and approval from Superintendent or above for any extension from 6 to 9 months.
If the police require more than 9 months an application must be made to the Magistrates’ Court for Judicial approval. There is no legislative limit to magistrate extensions. Exceptionally complex cases can be extended without approval from the Courts.
- Challenge to terms of conditions of bail may be made to the Magistrates’ Court at any time
Challenge to decision to impose bail or not or to withdraw bail (before the 9 month period) should be made to Administrative Court by judicial review
What effect will this have on time scales for police investigations?
It does not appear that the time limit for investigations will be affected by these new provisions as there is still no upper time limit imposed. Indeed, we may see more suspects released on pre-charge bail rather than released under investigation. This means more people will be subject to conditions and these conditions will last for longer than previously.
In turn, the ‘clock’ for police bail stops when the police refer the matter to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a charging decision. There is also no time limit for this period of review by the CPS meaning that investigations can continue for a lengthy time and suspects will continue to be subject to bail conditions.