Theresa May has recently announced that there is to be a review of the time limits of pre-charge bail used by the Police. Pre-charge bail is used by the Police when they are unable to immediately determine the charging outcome of a case, often when further investigation is required.
Currently people can be held on police bail for months or even years only for no charges to ever be brought. Pre-charge bail may not just require you to return to the Police Station on a particular date but may also impose other additional conditions. These conditions can be incredibly restrictive and may affect where you are allowed to go and who you are allowed to contact.
In the proposed review consideration is to be given to the enforcement of time limits, meaning that a person could only be bailed without a charging decision being made for a set period of time. Once this time period has expired the Police would have to either make a charging decision or apply to the Magistrates’ Court for an extension of the bail period.
Should such time limits be imposed more pressure would be placed on the Police to ensure that investigations are undertaken swiftly. The imposition of such time limits would also prevent people being held on bail, which may include very restrictive conditions, without limitation. It seems right that the pre-charge bail period should be regulated in this manner as the persons subjected to it are yet to be proven guilty of a criminal offence and in some cases never will be.
Whilst the issue of pre-charge bail and any statutory time limits is yet to be given full consideration, meaning any changes are unlikely to be enforced for some time, it is encouraging to see that changes are seriously being considered, changes which may lead to a more efficient justice system.