Changes to pre-charge bail

Changes to pre-charge bail, also known as police bail, came into force across England and Wales on 3 April 2017.

The Policing and Crime Act, which was given Royal Assent in January, introduced a number of changes to policing.

These include changes to the pre-charge bail process and means that the powers to release a suspect on bail have changed under the new legislation.

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The changes to bail apply to all arrests made after midnight on Monday 3 April.

The biggest change is that there is now a presumption of release without bail unless strict criteria are met around necessity and proportionality.

The decision as to whether a suspect will be released on bail will be made on a case by case basis.

There are three main bail periods that can be authorised by police. These are as follows:

  1. An initial bail period for 28 days authorised by an inspector;
  2. An extension to the initial bail period, to three calendar months from the bail start date, authorised by a superintendent;
  3. A further three calendar month extension, authorised by an assistant chief constable or commander. This extension only applies to exceptionally complex cases.

All other extensions to the bail period beyond this point will have to be authorised by a Magistrates’ Court.

The changes to pre-charge bail do not affect the role of police in serving and protecting the public. The grounds for arresting an individual remain the same, crime will still be investigated fully and victims will continue to be supported.

The Policing and Crime Act includes provisions which, according to the Home Office, will:

  1. “Reform pre-charge bail to stop people remaining on bail for lengthy periods without independent judicial scrutiny of its continued necessity”
  2. “Enable chief officers to make the most efficient and effective use of their workforce by giving them the flexibility to confer a wider range of powers on police staff and volunteers (while for the first time specifying a core list of powers that may only be exercised by warranted police officers)”
  3. “Place a duty on police, fire and ambulance services to work together and enable police and crime commissioners to take on responsibility for fire and rescue services where a local case is made”
  4. “Stop the detention in police cells of children and young people under 18 who are experiencing a mental health crisis (and restrict the circumstances when adults can be taken to police stations) by reforming police powers under sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983”
  5. “Reform the police complaints and disciplinary systems to ensure that the public have confidence in their ability to hold the police to account, and that police officers will uphold the highest standards of integrity”
  6. “Increase the maximum sentence from 5 to 10 years’ imprisonment for those convicted of the most serious cases of stalking and harassment”
  7. “Amend the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, including to ensure that 17-year-olds who are detained in police custody are treated as children for all purposes, and to increase the use of video link technology”
  8. “Amend the Firearms Acts, including to better protect the public by closing loopholes that can be exploited by criminals and terrorists”
  9. “Confer an automatic pardon on deceased individuals convicted of certain consensual gay sexual offences which would not be offences today, and on those persons still living who have had the conviction disregarded under the provisions of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012”.

For more information on the Policing and Crime Act, please visit the Home Office website here >

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