Extended police bail should be subject to judicial oversight
Responding to the Home Office consultation on pre-charge bail, the Law Society welcomes proposals to introduce legislation to regulate the use of pre-charge extended bail.
Law Society president Andrew Caplen said:
"The Law Society has campaigned for a change in the law for many years. Our members are all too aware of the very real hardship and stress caused to clients who are kept on police bail for extended periods under suspicion of having committed an offence.
"The decision to extend bail beyond 28 days should be subject to judicial oversight - not the authority of a senior police officer."
Former Chair of the Law Society criminal law committee Richard Atkinson said:
"As a criminal defence lawyer, my colleagues and I see first hand the distress unnecessary extended police bail causes. Releasing a person on pre-trial police bail leaves them in a legal limbo. They have not been charged with any offence, but are often stigmatised by the unresolved allegation hanging over them and may be subjected to conditions which restrict what they otherwise would be lawfully entitled to do.
"Delays in completing investigations - and the subsequent delay in deciding whether or not to charge - significantly slows down the criminal justice process adding to the inevitable stress of any criminal investigation on suspects, alleged victims and witnesses as well as potentially impacting of the quality of evidence as memories and ability to recall events fade over time."
Other points raised in the Law Society's response to the consultation include:
- We do not believe that it is in the interests of justice to have a maximum period of pre-charge bail, but there is a need for transparency and accountability which the current lack of judicial oversight prevents.
- We do not believe it is necessary that the Crown Court should take responsibility for bail decisions in some types of case. It would be simpler and cheaper for applications to be at magistrates' court level.