The new police bail procedure – to bail or not to bail

At the moment there is no limit to how long someone can be kept on bail while police decide whether to charge them with a criminal offence. In recent high profile cases like Neil Wallis, Jim Davidson and Paul Gambaccini, they were kept on police bail for long periods of time without charge. Often the details of well-known suspects are published and their bail extended, in the hope that other complainants will come forward.

The law will change in April 2017 meaning that there will be a new system for pre-charge bail. There are two main changes, the first is that after arrest a suspect can be released without being on bail. This means that a person can walk away from the police station without any bail conditions or restrictions on their life, unless the police believe that certain conditions have been met. Above all, it must be 'necessary and proportionate' to keep that person on bail.

The second important change is the time limit on bail. The starting point is that suspects can only be on bail for a maximum of 28 days. In special circumstances, a superintendent can extend this by up to three months. If the police want to keep a suspect on bail for any longer than this an application must be made to the Magistrates Court.

There are certain cases in which the time limits can be extended to six months before going to court if the investigation is "exceptionally complex". For example, a serious fraud case may fall into this category.

At the moment it is possible for people to be interviewed by the police voluntarily rather than being arrested. Sometimes these are called 'caution + 3' interviews. This new law will not affect these situations. For example, Cliff Richard was interviewed voluntarily by the police twice after he was accused of sexual assault offences. It then took the police two years to decide that he would not be charged. He has said that this was a very difficult time which was made worse by the intense press coverage and damage to his reputation.

The new law was created to try and make police investigations quicker, but it is likely to create a rise in the amount of people who are under lengthy investigation whilst not officially on police bail.

We at Saunders have decades of experience assisting all manner of suspects at this early stage and are happy to answer any questions that you may have. Our elite private crime team is acknowledged at the best in the business and we always offer a free, no obligation meeting.

Call us on 020 3811 3123 or make an enquiry online.


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