This Government are fully committed to protecting the public, and ensuring the police have the powers they need. As such, today I am announcing that I intend to review pre-charge bail legislation to ensure we have a system which more effectively prioritises the safety of victims and witnesses and the management of suspects.
Pre-charge bail enables the police to release a suspect from custody, usually subject to conditions, while officers continue their investigation or await charging decision. The Policing and Crime Act 2017 “the Act” introduced reforms to pre-charge bail to address legitimate concerns that suspects were spending too long under restrictive conditions with no oversight or redress.
Specifically, the Act introduced (in relation to pre-charge bail): a presumption against use unless necessary and proportionate; clear timescales, and senior police and judicial oversight of its use and extension.
Since 2017 the use of pre-charge bail has decreased, and the number of individuals released without bail, or “released under investigation”, has also increased.
Furthermore, the demands on the police service have also changed. Concerns have been raised that pre-charge bail is not consistently being used in instances where it may be necessary to effectively manage suspects and protect victims and witnesses.
The review will also look at how legislative frameworks around pre-charge bail can more effectively:
support the police in the timely management of investigations, whether released on bail or without bail (“released under investigation”);
respect the rights of suspects, victims and witnesses to timely decisions and updates;
support the timely progression of cases to courts; and
how existing rules may be made simpler and more flexible in design to support effective operational decisions