In February of last year, this Government launched a consultation seeking views on reforming pre-charge bail. A number of cases had highlighted that the existing system was not working for victims, law enforcement, or suspects. It is of great importance to this Government that the public have confidence in the criminal justice system, and I am clear that the welfare of victims should be at its heart.
The consultation sought views on a number of aspects of the pre-charge bail process—in particular addressing the reduced reliance on pre-charge bail, and the growing number of suspects being released under investigation (RUI). Under RUI, conditions and restrictions, which could be used to protect the victim, cannot be imposed on a suspect, and this has meant that in a number of cases victims have not had the right safeguards in place.
We received feedback from a range of stakeholders—from charities and victim services to lawyers and the judiciary and police—which we have used to inform our response. The Government have listened, and now we are taking action.
We will be bringing forward the following reforms, legislating where necessary at the earliest opportunity, to ensure victims can feel better protected and suspects will not be placed under endless suspicion.
We will remove the current presumption against use of pre-charge bail to ensure that law enforcement can take a balanced decision depending on the circumstances of the case. This will help reduce the numbers of those released under investigation (RUI).
We will adjust the timescales and authorisation levels for pre-charge bail to better reflect the operational realities faced by investigating officers, while maintaining rigorous oversight of decisions to extend bail timelines.
We will ensure that victims play a key role in the pre-charge bail process, that they are fully informed as the case progresses and are able to ask questions and provide views. This is so officers can take into account any safeguarding concerns to ensure appropriate measures are in place.
We are determined to give the police the right tools to keep the public safe. These changes are designed to make the pre-charge bail regime more effective and to provide more confidence for all involved.
Further detail of the changes we are making can be found in the consultation response. The consultation response will be available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/police-powers-pre-charge-bail. A copy will also be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.