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Government announces plans to review pre-charge bail law

Safety of victims prioritised

07 November 2019
Government announces plans to review pre-charge bail law

The government has announced that they are reviewing pre-charge bail legislation to ensure the safety of victims is prioritised and the police are supported in investigating all offences.

Pre-charge bail allows the police to release a suspect from custody, usually subject to conditions, while officers continue their investigation or await a charging decision. Reforms made in 2017 limited the length of pre-charge bail to an initial 28 days and required that the extension of bail conditions for up to three months be authorised by a senior police officer. This was intended to prevent suspects being left for lengthy periods under restrictive bail conditions without being charged.

The review will scrutinise the system to see how it can be improved, and will look to:

  • Ensure the proper use of bail to protect victims and witnesses
  • Support the police in the timely management of investigations, whether a suspect is released on bail or without bail (known as ‘released under investigation’)
  • Respect the rights of suspects, victims and witnesses to timely decisions and updates
  • Ensure pre-charge bail supports the timely progression of cases to courts
  • Design simplified and flexible rules to support effective operational decisions

The announcement follows guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs Council to frontline officers earlier this year, stressing the importance of using pre-charge bail, including in high harm cases. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate are also conducting an inspection of how police forces manage bail, and they are expected to publish their findings next year. 

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