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Criminal solicitors worried by 28-day bail limit

5th Oct 2016

Criminal solicitors are worried by Home Office plans to restrict the use of bail in England and Wales for suspects who have not been charged.

The Police and Crime Bill will introduce a 28-day limit intended to reduce the amount of time people spend on police bail. However, the College of Policing has told the BBC that the proposals could lead to suspects being placed under investigation by one force without the knowledge others around the country.

Research by the BBC in 2013 found that 3,000 people had been on bail for more than six months.

Ruth Harris, a criminal defence partner at Hodge Jones & Allen, said that defence lawyers also have concerns about the “unintended consequences” of the proposals as “Going from a system with no restriction, the 28-day bail limit is so short – particularly in matters with forensic analysis or large quantities of data to be considered – that police will be reluctant to bail at all.”

“The mischief these proposals aimed to stem is the police habit of not dealing with investigations expeditiously,” Harris continued. “Suspects could be endlessly bailed and there was no method by which this could be challenged.”

“The unintended consequence of the proposed change is that many suspects will simply not be bailed at all. Enquiries will continue, but they will be left in limbo as to the state of the investigation.”

Harris explained that suspects will have “no date to work towards – however illusory – when the case will be resolved”.

“They will simply leave the police station after interview with the “whiff of suspect” hanging round them and no idea as to when they can expect to be considered clean,” she added. “This must be a concern for suspects and victims, who will both be concerned to know when matters will be resolved.”