Frontline officers must be able to feed into review of bail laws
Home Office announces pre-charge bail consultation to ‘support officers and victims’.
The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has welcomed the launch of a consultation on pre-charge bail with a focus on ensuring that the police are properly supported to investigate crimes and victims are appropriately protected.
Today (5 February) the Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the move which represents a dramatic shift from the previous policy introduced by Theresa May in 2017.
Ms Patel she was “committed to giving a voice to victims and providing the police with the support they need to protect the public from harm”.
Proposals for consultation include:
- removing the presumption against pre-charge bail;
- placing a duty on officers to use pre-charge bail in cases where it is necessary and proportionate, including for cases where there are risks to victims, witnesses and the public; where it could prevent reoffending and where the offence in question has significant real or intended impacts;
- allowing officers of a lower rank to authorise and extend pre-charge bail;
- extending the initial period where pre-charge bail can be applied from 28 to either 60 or 90 days, as well as delaying the point at which magistrates’ approval for the extension of bail is required from 3 months to 6, 9 or 12 months; and
- introducing ‘review points’ in codes of practice for investigations where pre-charge bail is not used, including where individuals are interviewed voluntarily or released under investigation.
Reacting to the news PFEW National Chair John Apter said: “The Police Federation, along with many others within policing, warned that the changes to the bail laws were not fit for purpose when they were introduced, and this review is a welcome step towards changing these laws to make them relevant and workable.
“My sincere hope, and challenge to the Government, is that this review leads to a real change in the bail system that supports police officers as they carry out investigations and, most importantly, puts the safety of victims at the forefront.
“It is vital that our members – the officers at the frontline who have the greatest experience of how these laws work in practice – are able to feed into the consultation, and their voices are heard. And I will be discussing this with the Home Secretary when we next meet,” said Mr Apter.
The government will also gather views from victims of crime and those individuals who have been released under investigation about how the current system can be improved, as well seeking views on the effectiveness of existing bail conditions.
Responding to the announcement the National Police Chiefs’ Council said that the 2017 changes had presented “fresh challenges” for the police service but it had “worked hard to implement the changes in the spirit they were introduced”.