Pre-charge bail: reform is welcomed

14 January 2021

Police will be able to release suspects on pre-charge bail for 90 days rather than the current 28 days under the latest reform of arrangements.

While Home Secretary, former Prime Minister Theresa May introduced a 28-day cap on pre-charge bail as part of the Policing and Crime Act.

But the Home Office has today published its response to a consultation on pre-charge bail which officers from the Federation’s National Custody Forum also contributed to.

“We welcome the changes that will be put in place,” says Steve Thorpe, chair of Gwent Police Federation, “They will prevent people being released under investigation for long periods and will also cut the red tape that officers have to deal with.”

Reacting to the reform, national Federation chair John Apter said: “These changes to the bail system are much needed and long-overdue. However, we should not have had to campaign to reform the bail system because the disastrous changes to pre-charge bail conditions should never have happened in the first place.

“Despite multiple warnings from the Police Federation and others within policing, these changes were arrogantly pursued by a previous Government. Those responsible for driving through those changes with the predictable damage that was caused have failed victims and justice."

The Federation accurately predicted that the changes introduced in 2017 would see pre-charge bail drop dramatically with the release of suspects under investigation becoming the norm.

Figures released under Freedom of Information laws showed the number of suspected offenders - including violent and sexual offenders as well as domestic abusers - released while still under investigation rose from 6,464 in 2016 to 97,473 in 2019.

The full package of reforms will be named ‘Kay’s Law’ in memory of Kay Richardson, who was murdered by her ex-partner released while he was under previous investigation for domestic abuse.