Police bail - Home Affairs Contents

1  Police Bail

1. Police bail, or pre-charge bail, is a tool that allows the police to continue an investigation without detaining the suspect in custody. The two common situations in which the police use pre-charge bail are:

a)  where there is insufficient evidence to charge a suspect, and the police wish to continue to investigate without keeping the suspect in custody;[1] and

b)  where the police have passed the file to the CPS for a charging decision.[2]

Chris Eyre, Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police and ACPO Lead for Criminal Justice, said available data showed about 980,000 people were arrested in any one year, of whom about 31% (around 303,000) were bailed.[3] He said that about 2% of arrests resulted in a person being on bail for more than six months, which equated to about 19,600 people each year.[4] In 2014, some 78,757 people were detained and released on pre-charge bail by the Metropolitan Police. Over the same time period, 58,968 were on pre-charge bail for longer than 28 days, and in around a third of those cases, 29,866, the final decision was to take no further action.[5]

2. Being arrested and held on bail is no indication of guilt. It means the police have acted upon a reasonable suspicion, carried out an arrest, and wish to continue to investigate the allegation without holding the suspect in custody. This is a much lower bar than that required in a court to establish guilt,[6] and in fact a much weaker test than the Crown Prosecution Service applies when deciding whether or not to prosecute, which requires that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.

3. Pre-charge bail has been criticised because there are no limits on the length of time that someone can be bailed or the number of times they can be re-bailed, and the suspect cannot challenge the imposition of bail. This concern has led to two consultations, the first in March 2014 by the College of Policing on the operational use of pre-charge bail, introducing common standards and standardising use across all forces.[7] The second consultation, initiated by Home Office in December 2014, is considering the introduction of statutory time limits on the use of pre-charge bail.[8] The other measures suggested in the Home Office consultation include:

·  Enabling the police to release someone pending further investigation without bail in circumstances where bail is not considered to be necessary;

·  Setting a clear expectation that pre-charge bail should not last longer than a specified finite period of 28 days, as recommended by the College of Policing;

·  Setting the extenuating circumstances in which that period might be extended further, and who should make that decision;

·  Establishing a framework for the review by the courts of pre-charge bail;

·  Considering whether extension of pre-charge bail should only be available in certain types of case, such as fraud or tax evasion, or in all cases where there are exceptional reasons for an extended investigation;

·  Considering how best to enable the police to obtain timely evidence from other public authorities; and

·  Considering whether individuals subject to pre-charge bail should be able to challenge the duration as well as the conditions in the courts.

The consultation closed on 8 February 2015.

1   See Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, s37(2) Back

2   See Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, s37(7)(a)-37(7)(c). See the College of Policing, Response to the Consultation on the Use of Pre-Charge Bail, 2014 Back

3   Q 65; Q 87; The remaining 69% are dealt with on the day of arrest. Back

4   Q 92 Back

5   http://www.met.police.uk/foi/pdfs/disclosure_2015/february_2015/2015010001125.pdf  Back

6   Kate Goold written evidence Back

7   College of Policing, Consultation on Pre-Charge Bail, March 2014 Back

8   Home Office, December 2014, Pre-Charge Bail, A Consultation on the Introduction of Statutory Time Limits and Related Changes Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2015
Prepared 20 March 2015