Federation fears over bail shake-up confirmed

30 March 2018


Pre-charge bail has dropped by a staggering 65 per cent since new laws came in nearly a year ago.

Use of bail for domestic abuse cases also plummeted in the same period, meaning victims are less protected by the new rules - as the Federation predicted more than a year ago.

The shocking data is revealed in the HMICFRS PEEL Effectiveness report published last week which examined for the first time how the new bail provisions were working. But the Government inspectors’ conclusion that there was a ‘risk of unintended consequences in the recent changes in bail legislation’ has angered the Federation and custody cops, who warned about the dangers when the new rules were originally proposed.

Andy Ward, Federation National Deputy General Secretary and Custody Lead said the report “confirmed many of our worst fears.”

“We learn that not only has pre-charge bail dropped significantly, by 65% since it came in last April, - something we predicted - but the daily use of bail for domestic abuse cases also dropped from an average of 119 cases per day in the nine months to 31 March 2017, to just 42 cases per day in the three months to 30 June 2017.

“This is potentially a disaster for victims because pre-charge bail is one of the most powerful measures at our members’ disposal, not only for the protection of victims and witnesses but also for the prevention of re-offending. But now their hands appear increasingly tied by the stringency of the new law which actively discourages pre-charge bail being used in the majority of cases.”

He added: “What is really disappointing is that HMICFRS appears to be critical of forces not dealing with the fallout, even though virtually every stakeholder group involved in the very lengthy consultation process, including the Federation and forces, warned that problems were inevitable if the legislation was introduced as the Government and Home Office  had proposed. Unfortunately those concerns fell on deaf ears and  this report now backs up what we have been saying all along.”

The report recommends that forces should review how they are implementing changes to pre-charge police bail by September 2018. But Mr Ward said the new rules also posed problems for difficult investigations.

He added: “This report is a bit like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Release  without bail appears to have become the default position but we have also highlighted that the 28-day time limit is unrealistic for complex investigations. Cyber-crime, for example, requires computers to be seized and equipment to be interrogated to gain evidence. Abuse cases often require the interrogation of mobile phone data. The results of detailed forensic analysis can take a significant amount of time to be returned.”

The Federation strongly opposed the new rules – now enshrined in the Policing and Crime Act 2017 – but the Home Office ignored its concerns and pushed on with the changes, which represent the biggest overhaul of bail arrangements in the history of PACE (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act).