A new bail law has completely changed the basis on which suspects are released pending further investigation into their case. The old rules under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act were that once you had been arrested it was entirely up to the police how long you were kept on bail whilst they investigated the case. We have in the past had cases lasting 2 years or more where dates were given for return to the Police Station and then repeatedly extended. However, the arrest of the broadcaster Paul Gambaccini who was on bail for over a year on an entirely false allegation, led to the passing of The Policing and Crime Act 2017. It had taken the police over a year to investigate and then drop the case.
Police bail reforms
The most dramatic effect of the new act has been that for many cases suspects are now released without bail conditions of any type. They are released under investigation (RUI). The suspect has no date to return to the police station. They can travel where they like, reside where they like and lead their lives without constraint. In these cases, it is up to the police to notify a suspect or his solicitor when a decision has been taken either to charge or to take no further action.
28 days maximum for standard criminal cases
There are still provisions for the police to release suspects with bail conditions. The important difference is that the maximum period is 28 days unless extended by a “senior officer” of the rank of superintendent or above. Any such extension must be for no more than three months after which application has to be made to the magistrate’s court. Cases which are being investigated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Serious Fraud Office have longer time limits, but the same principles apply. Investigation of suspects on police bail is no longer an open-ended endeavour controlled by the police alone.
At all stages a suspect’s representative has the right to make representations both at the imposing of conditions and at the review stage. Further there is a right to apply to magistrate’s court to remove or vary conditions if the police refuse to do so. Advocacy Assistance is available.
Where the police do decide that they want bail conditions they have to be satisfied that the conditions proposed are necessary and proportionate in all the circumstances. It is then open to the suspect’s solicitor to make representations that the test is not met or that the conditions are unduly harsh and should be reduced.
The conditions usually imposed will be designed to reduce the prospect of a suspect absconding, interfering with witnesses, committing further offences or otherwise obstructing justice. Each category will have to be justified and there is ample opportunity for a skilful solicitor to challenge both the necessity or the proportionality of conditions.
A common scenario is a condition that a passport should be surrendered. This may be disproportionate where the offence is not of the most serious type and the consequence the cancellation of a pre-booked trip. Solicitors should always seek to make representations to a superintendent on the 28-day review.
Apply to vary bail
We will apply to vary bail for any client on police bail pending a charging decision, even where we did not represent the client at the police station. We will approach the investigating officer, make written representations to a superintendent on the 28-day review and apply to the magistrates court.
Contact Jamie Ritchie or Keith Hollywood if you wish to vary your police bail on 0208 986 8336 or use our contact forms or e-mail.