Setting time limits to police bail
In recent years there has been much complaint about the shadow can be cast over people’s lives when those people have become of interest to the police, but where the police do not have enough evidence to justify charging them with the committal of an offence. A number of well-known members of the public were on police bail for months, not knowing whether any further steps were going to be taken against them.
When she was Home Secretary, Theresa May decided that there had to be limits to the time any person could be made subject to police bail (technically known as ‘pre-charge bail’).
Part 4 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 contains provisions which reflect this decision.
The Act amends PACE Act 1984 by creating a presumption that where the police decide to release a person without charging them, the release should not be subject to the imposition of bail, unless defined pre-conditions are satisfied.
The conditions are
- Condition A is that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the person on bail is guilty of the offence for which they were arrested and are on bail.
- Condition B is that there are reasonable grounds for believing either that further time is needed for the police to make a charging decision under police-led prosecution arrangements (where the person has been bailed for that purpose) or that further investigation is necessary.
- Condition C is that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the charging decision or investigation (as applicable) is being conducted diligently and expeditiously.
- Condition D is that releasing the person on bail continues to be both necessary
and proportionate in all the circumstances of the particular case (having regard, in particular,to any bail conditions that are or would be imposed).
Where the bail pre-conditions are satisfied, the period of bail will normally by limited to 28 days (3 months in Serious Fraud Office cases) though the period may be extended to three months by senior police officers, with the possibility of further extensions approved by the magistrates.
Further information is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/policing-and-crime-bill