Police bail - Home Affairs Contents

4  No Further Action

28. The investigation into Paul Gambaccini started on 4 April 2013, following an allegation made by a single complainant. The case was later dropped by the police on 5 September 2013 for insufficient evidence. Then on 26 September 2013, a second individual came forward and Mr Gambaccini was arrested on 29 October 2013 by officers from Operation Yewtree. He was released and initially bailed until 8 January 2014. His file was passed to the CPS on 10 February 2014. Between January 2014 and 10 October 2014, when he was eventually told that no further action would be taken, he had been re-bailed six times. At one point he found out he was being re-bailed only via the media; neither he nor his solicitor was notified directly. He believed that the dates of his re-bailing were chosen to coincide with announcements relating to other Yewtree cases. He said he did receive a reason each time, but it was "always opaque and in one case it was not a true statement."[42] He felt that he was a victim of a witch hunt:

    You have captured the essence of the witch hunt, which is to seize any allegation, no matter how flimsy; arrest you; publicise you through their recognised intermediaries and then just see what comes; sit back and wait for the phone to ring.[43]

He was told by the CPS case officer that sometimes the release of someone's name prompts the telephone to ring and ring, but when Mr Gambaccini's name was released the phone never rang. At the time that he was told there would be no action against him, he had spent almost twelve months on bail and in all that time, no one had come forward. [44] Kate Goold, said that during that time:

    I did not really know what was going on. I had no idea what investigations were taking place or where those investigations were going and the weight of the evidence. All I knew was that there were no further complaints made, which was a concern because I was concerned about Mr Gambaccini's name being in the public domain, but I was given absolutely no further information.[45]

29. The proposals in the Home Office consultation should improve the amount of information given to a suspect at each review stage. Even so, we find it difficult to understand why someone would be kept on bail for several months and then be told that there would be no further action, without any more information.

False allegations

30. In the case of Mr Gambaccini, he felt strongly that the allegations against him were wholly fictitious, but they had nonetheless caused him irreparable damage. The CPS has carried out some research into the number of prosecutions for false allegations, but in rape and domestic violence cases. Their review of all such cases between January 2011 and May 2012, found 5,651 prosecutions for rape and 111,891 for domestic violence. Of those, there were 35 prosecutions for making false allegations of rape, 6 for making false allegations for domestic violence, and 3 for both rape and domestic violence. A significant number of the false allegations came from young, often vulnerable, people. While the proportion of prosecutions for false allegations is small, the CPS recognises that such false allegations can ruin people's lives and "those falsely accused should feel confident that the Crown Prosecution Service will prosecute these cases wherever there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so."[46]

31. It may be that, in addition to the legal route for libel, someone who has been held on bail for a prolonged time without being charged, and their reputation ruined, there should be a mechanism for the person to receive an acknowledgement that they were falsely accused. In the Chris Jeffries case, the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset, Nick Gargan, wrote to Mr Jeffries in the following terms:

    I write formally to acknowledge the hurt that you suffered as a result of that arrest, detention and eventual release on police bail in connection with the murder of Joanna Yeates in December 2010 and which was the subject of huge media interest. […] I accept unequivocally that you played no part in the murder and that you are wholly innocent of the crime.[47]

32. The implications of prolonged bail is not limited to sexual offences. There are examples of journalists being bailed for long periods, and not necessarily being convicted at the end of it. Operation Elveden and Operation Tuleta had led to several journalists spending considerable time on bail, as long as two years in some cases, prompting the Metropolitan Police to admit that "there is genuine concern on our part about the length of time that some of those arrested have been bailed".[48]

33. We recommend that, where a person has been on bail for longer than six months, and where the final decision is to take no further action, the CPS should write to the individual explaining the decision. The CPS said that they write to the complainant to give an explanation when a case is not proceeded with. In Mr Gambaccini's case there was a decision for No Further Action. Mr Gambaccini told the Committee that the case against him was fictitious. We believe it is unfair to write to the complainant and not to the person who had been complained against. This leaves someone like Mr Gambaccini in limbo without anyone taking responsibility for his twelve months of "trauma".

34. We recommend that the CPS write and issue a formal apology to Paul Gambaccini with an explanation as to why this case took so long.

35. The Committee has not considered the situation of those who have not been arrested or bailed but have found themselves in the eye of a media storm as a result of an investigation entering the public domain. We believe in the principle of fairness and timeliness which we have elucidated in the cases of constant bail renewals. The police and the CPS should be as transparent as possible regarding the progress of investigations as they operationally can be, to avoid the situation where these individuals are subject to the "fly paper" tactic described by Mr Gambaccini.

42   Q 6 Back

43   Q 30 Back

44   The second complainant was identified on 26 September 2013. Mr Gambaccini was told there would be No Further Action on 10 October 2014. Back

45   Q 16 Back

46   Joint report to the Director of Public Prosecutions by Alison Levitt QC, Principal Legal Advisor, and the Crown Prosecution Service Equality and Diversity Unit, Charging Perverting the Course of Justice and wasting police time in cases involving allegedly false rape and domestic violence allegations, March 2013  Back

47   Christopher Jefferies told 'sorry' by police over arrest distress, BBC News, 16 September 2013 Back

48   Liberty response to the Home Office Consultation on Pre-charge bail Back

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Prepared 20 March 2015