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Police Bail: Statutory Time Limits

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 18 December 2014

The College of Policing published last week the results of its consultation on improving the way pre-charge bail is managed, which provides the police with welcome guidance on the way they should operate the current system. However, as I announced in my speech to the college’s annual conference on 15 October, we also need to look at statutory time limits on the use of pre-charge bail, as that is the only way we can ensure that people do not spend months or even years on bail only for no charges to be brought.

I am today publishing a consultation paper setting out potential changes to the legislation underpinning pre-charge bail that would result in the greatest reform of that legislation since it was passed 30 years ago. The end result of the proposed changes should be to reduce both the number of individuals subject to, and the average duration of, pre-charge bail. The measures being consulted upon 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 document is available online at and a copy will be placed in the Library of the House; the closing date for responses is 8 February 2015.