“You’re being released without bail… but remain under investigation”.
“So, what happens now?”, you may ask. This is an uncertainty that many suspects now face since new bail provisions were introduced, changing the way that the Police deal with ongoing investigations.
Since April 2017, new time limits were set on bail which means that Police are only able to impose pre-charge bail for a maximum of 28 days, subject to exceptions. Home Secretary Amber Rudd summarised that a reason for the change is due to “pre-charge bail is a useful and necessary tool but in many cases, it is being imposed on people for many months, or even years, without any judicial oversight – and that cannot be right.” But is the current position any better?
Many elements of Police investigations can take substantially longer than 28 days, such as examination of electronic devices. To get around the new rules, suspects are being “released under investigation” rather than being released on pre-charge bail following their detention in the Police Station. This means that the Police will still investigate the matter as normal but a suspect is no longer required to return to a Police Station to formally answer their bail.
But without the impending bail appointment, it is possible that investigations will take even longer to conclude as the Police no longer have fixed deadlines in which to provide updates. This could have the opposite effect to what was intended and suspects can languish in uncertainty for long periods of time without any potential end date. Suspects will be unaware of when it is safe to assume that they are no longer “under investigation” or indeed whether they are likely to face further Police involvement if they contact someone connected with the allegation, despite there being no bail conditions preventing them from doing so.
However, despite the good intentions of the new provisions on pre-charge bail, there is in fact little change to the peace of mind of a suspect if the Police continue to take the approach of releasing a suspect “under investigation”.
Nevertheless, in some respects, the new system of being “released under investigation” can be beneficial for a suspect. For example, they no longer have to make arrangements to attend bail appointments, which in some cases could mean taking time off work just to be told that they need to come back another day as no decision has been made.
It remains as important as ever to seek the correct legal advice if you are under suspicion of having committed a criminal offence, regardless of whether you are under arrest or asked to attend an interview voluntarily. Our solicitors are available to represent you at the police station 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Don’t leave it too late, you can contact our crime department on 07764929487.
Hannah is a specialist police station adviser; contact Hannah with any questions on 0191 243 8148