Practice and Procedure

Chancery Lane calls for 28-day police bail limit

PUBLISHED May 31, 2013

Monday 03 June 2013 by Catherine Baksi

The Law Society has called for a statutory 28-day limit on the amount of time suspects are kept on police bail.

Over 57,000 people are on police bail in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to figures obtained by the BBC.

Of those, 3,172 have been on bail for more than six months and one person arrested three-and-a-half years ago remains on bail awaiting a charging decision from the police.

There is currently no time limit on how long a suspect can be kept on police bail before a decision is made on whether to charge them.

The chairman of the Law Society's criminal law committee, Richard Atkinson (pictured), said there should be a statutory 28-day maximum for police bail that could be extended by an application to the magistrates' court.

He reiterated the points made in the Law Society's response to the government's 'Swift and Sure' consultation last year.

This suggested that the major cause of delay between an offence being alleged to have occurred and the end of court proceedings, is the amount of time that suspects are subject to police bail while the police investigate.

Chancery Lane agreed that police need reasonable time to investigate cases, but said that there are often 'very long and apparently unnecessary delays' until the police and the Crown Prosecution Service make the decision to charge a suspect, resulting in police bail continuing for several months, if not years.