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Pre-charge Bail

Volume 590: debated on Tuesday 6 January 2015

I regularly meet the Director of Public Prosecutions to discuss matters affecting the CPS, as my hon. Friend might expect. We discussed the Home Office’s consultation paper on limiting police pre-charge bail before it was published, and I expect the CPS to contribute to that consultation.

How would my right hon. and learned Friend feel if, like one of my constituents, he was subjected to the ignominy of a highly publicised arrest, suspended from his job, and put on pre-charge bail for 11 months before being released without charge? How is such oppressive treatment of innocent people consistent with the spirit of Magna Carta?

I do not think that oppressive treatment is consistent with the spirit of Magna Carta. In this of all years, we should consider very carefully what my hon. Friend has said, and I think that that is why the Home Secretary initiated the consultation. We need to consider all aspects of this matter. It is right to balance against the important points that my hon. Friend has made the need to ensure that, in complex cases, investigation is given its proper time, and that victims and witnesses are protected, as they can be, by conditions attached to pre-charge bail. However, he is right in what he says, which is why we are considering the issue.

I have encountered a case in which someone was bailed for even longer without being charged. That has ruined the lives of two people, and it has gone on and on. What is the longest period of bail without charge of which the Attorney-General is aware?

I cannot answer that question off the top of my head, but I will of course write to the hon. Gentleman, and I agree with him. We need to consider this issue carefully, and to ensure that in the generality of cases there is a clear expectation of a maximum length of time that people should spend on pre-charge bail before minds are made up about what to do in such cases. That is what the consultation is about, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman and others will contribute to it.