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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
Following a report by Robert Gordon in 2014, the Government announced in its legislative programme for 2015 that it would be published a draft bill, proposing the creation of a single Public Services Ombudsman, which would bring together the current Parliamentary ombudsman, Local Government Ombudsmen and the Health Services Ombudsman. Such a move had been made in Scotland and Wales.
No such bill has been published, nor was the proposal mentioned in the legislative programme for 2016. The Government has stated that the proposal will be brought forward in due course, but there is no indication of any timetable for this.
In the interim, a very interesting House of Commons Briefing Paper on the subject has been published which summarises many of the issues involved.
Rationalisation of the current plethora of Ombudsmen has been something that has been argued for sometime but one gets the impression that for the moment it has been kicked into the long grass and is not high on the Government’s priority list.
The Briefing note is at http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7587
In July 2015, the Government launched a consultation on closing under used courts. 91 possible buildings were earmarked for possible closure. (See this blog 26 July 2015)
We know that reduction of the court estate is a key component needed to fund the investment needed to modernise the court estate. (See this blog 3o Nov 2015).
The Government has now announced the buildings that are to be closed – together with an indicative timetable showing that the closure programme will run over 2 years.
In the end only 64 of the sites originally identified will close as proposed. A further 22 closures will take place, but modified from the original proposals. 5 escape the axe altogether.
As I note in my book Introduction to the English Legal System, the Youth Justice system has undergone enormous change in the last 20 years.
The current Government has, however, launched a review of the system and in February 2016 published the interim findings of the Review.
The review is led by Charlie Taylor, the former Chief Executive of the National College of Teaching and Leadership, the former head teacher of a school for children with complex behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, and an expert in managing young people’s behaviour.
The report finds that:
since 2006/07 the number of children in custody has declined by 64% to its lowest recorded level
of those children who remain in custody, almost two thirds reoffend within a year of release
around 40% of young people in under-18 Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) have not been to school since they were aged 14, and nearly nine out of 10 have been excluded from school at some point
children in YOIs are only receiving 17 hours of education every week against an expectation of 30 hours
The interim proposals from the review include:
re-designing the youth estate so that it can cater for a smaller, but more challenging, group of children in custody
placing education at the centre of youth custody, by drawing on the culture of aspiration and discipline which is evident in the best alternative provision schools
replacing youth prisons with smaller secure schools which help children master the basics in English and maths as well as providing high quality vocational education in a more therapeutic environment
giving local areas greater say in the way children are managed by devolving responsibility, control and money from Whitehall.
In addition, the review is also examining the way young offenders are dealt with in court and the sentences available, how to prevent offending in the first place and how to reintegrate children back into the community following custody.
A final report is expected in July 2016.
For further details of this important policy review go to https://www.gov.uk/government/news/review-of-the-youth-justice-system
On 30 July 2014, I summarised the Government’s proposals for ‘supporting heroes’ contained in the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill 2015. The proposals have now completed the Parliamentary process, and the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act 2015 is now on the statute book.
To recap, the Act provides that when dealing with negligence claims or claims for breach of statutory duty the courts should consider:
- whether the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred when the person was acting for the benefit of society or any of its members (section 2) ;
- whether the person , in carrying out the activity giving rise to the claim , demonstrated a generally responsible approach towards protecting the safety or other interests of others (section 3) ;
- whether the alleged negligence or breach of statutory duty occurred when the person was acting heroically by intervening in an emergency to assist an individual in danger and without regard to his or her own safety or other interests (section 4).
The Act will come into force on a date to be announced later.