Victims and Suspects left in Limbo after Changes to Police Bail
Be careful what you wish for.
Like many lawyers we were troubled by Police leaving people on restrictive bail conditions for long periods, often over 12 months and campaigned to affect that situation. The remedy was clearly to properly fund and staff Police forces so that allegations could be dealt with in a fair, efficient and timely way.
Unfortunately the Government’s response was to simply remove constraints on Police enquiries and bail. We now have a situation where officers are discouraged from arresting and encouraged to deal with matters by summons. This means that there are no time constraints on investigations. Suspects are left in limbo for many months with no means of resolving their case. We have experience of the most serious cases of assault, drugs supply and sexual cases being started by a letter being sent to the Defendant’s last known address, in some cases, more than a year after the case was reported. This causes huge injustices and massive problems for an underfunded court system.
It is not just Defendants who are affected. Victims of crime must be concerned that they are left without the protection of bail conditions or any certainty about the progress of their case.
Surely this cannot be allowed to continue.
Number of suspects released under investigation soars after changes to police bail
LNB News 09/10/2019 63
In its report, ‘Release under investigation—August 2019’, the Law Society has found that tens of thousands of suspects are being released without bail conditions for unlimited periods, which results in suspects, victims and witnesses experiencing cases with no fixed time limit. Currently, there is no requirement to update suspects on whether or when their cases will progress.
The report’s findings include:
- A considerable increase in the use of release under investigation since changes were made to the use of bail in 2017
- The number of suspects released on bail decreasing sharply—in Thames Valley the number of suspects released on bail between 2016–17 was 13,768, which dropped to 379 and the number released under investigation increased to 11,053 in 2017–18
- The average length of investigation becoming longer than police bail
All advice is correct at time of publication.