Crime Team E-Bulletin - April 2017

Police Bail and the New 28-Day Time Limit in Standard Cases

As of 3 April 2017, the time for which a suspect can be subject to pre-charge bail (aka police bail) is now limited to 28 days.

Section 63 of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 makes amendments within Part 4 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (“PACE”) 1984 by introducing extra sections governing the bail time limit and the criteria for applications to extend the limit.

Pre-charge bail allows those under investigation to be released from custody while inquiries continue to be made by the police.

The initial 28-day period can be extended by up to three months if it the decision maker (most likely a senior officer) has reasonable grounds for believing that the release on bail of the suspect is necessary and proportionate in all the circumstances. A suspect is entitled to make representations against such an application for an extension.

Judicial oversight is then required when considering extensions beyond the three-month extension by a senior officer. Applications at this stage are to be made to a magistrates’ court.

Section 47ZD is now included in PACE and applies to extensions of the initial limit in standard cases:

(1) This section applies in relation to a person if—

(a) the applicable bail period in relation to the person is the period mentioned in section 47ZB(1)(b),

(b) that period has not ended, and

(c) a senior officer is satisfied that conditions A to D are met in relation to the person.

(2) The senior officer may authorise the applicable bail period in relation to the person to be extended so that it ends at the end of the period of 3 months beginning with the person’s bail start date.

(3) Before determining whether to give an authorisation under subsection (2) in relation to a person, the senior officer must arrange for the person or the person’s legal representative to be informed that a determination is to be made.

(4) In determining whether to give an authorisation under subsection (2) in relation to a person, the senior officer must consider any representations made by the person or the person’s legal representative.

(5) The senior officer must arrange for the person or the person’s legal representative to be informed whether an authorisation under subsection (2) has been given in relation to the person.

In order to apply to extend the pre-charge bail time limit, the 28-day period must still be running and a senior officer must be satisfied that the following conditions, set out in s.47ZC of PACE 1984, are met:

Condition A is that the decision-maker has reasonable grounds for suspecting the person in question to be guilty of the relevant offence.

Condition B is that the decision-maker has reasonable grounds for believing—

(a) in a case where the person in question is or is to be released on bail under section 37(7)(c) or 37CA(2)(b), that further time is needed for making a decision as to whether to charge the person with the relevant offence, or

(b) otherwise, that further investigation is needed of any matter in connection with the relevant offence.

Condition C is that the decision-maker has reasonable grounds for believing—

(a) in a case where the person in question is or is to be released on bail under section 37(7)(c) or 37CA(2)(b), that the decision as to whether to charge the person with the relevant offence is being made diligently and expeditiously, or

(b) otherwise, that the investigation is being conducted diligently and expeditiously.

Condition D is that the decision-maker has reasonable grounds for believing that the release on bail of the person in question is necessary and proportionate in all the circumstances (having regard, in particular, to any conditions of bail which are, or are to be, imposed).

If the above is satisfied, a senior officer may authorise an extension of the bail period so that it ends at the end of the period of three months beginning with the person’s bail start date (s47ZD(2) PACE 1984).

An application may then be made to a magistrates’ court for a further extension under s47ZF PACE 1984. If the court is satisfied that Conditions B – D (above) are met and that the case does not fall within subsection (7) (‘A case falls within this subsection if the nature of the decision or further investigations mentioned in condition B means that that decision is unlikely to be made or those investigations completed if the applicable bail period in relation to the person is not extended as specified in subsection (6)’), the bail period can be extended to six months beginning with the start date of the bail.

If, however, the case does fall with subsection (7), the bail period can be extended to nine months beginning with the start date of the bail.

It should be noted at this point that a constable and a Crown Prosecutor are amongst those who qualify as applicants for such an application.

Subsequent applications for extensions are governed by s47ZG. Again, the application is made to a magistrates’ court. Unlike the granting of the aforementioned initial extension, any extension now granted will end after either three months or six months starting with the end of the current applicable bail period, rather than starting from the original bail start date.

Even if an extension has already been authorised as above, a qualifying applicant may make further applications under s47ZG(2).

Subsequent applications are to be determined by a single justice of the peace on written evidence unless:

(2)(a) the effect of the application would be to extend the applicable bail period in relation to the person so that it ends at or before the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the person’s bail start date, and

(b) a single justice of the peace considers that the interests of justice require an oral hearing

OR

(a) the effect of the application would be to extend the applicable bail period in relation to the person so that it ends after the end of the period of 12 months beginning with the person’s bail start date, and

(b) the person, or the person who made the application, requests an oral hearing.

Conclusion

If either condition above applies, the application will be determined by two or more justices sitting otherwise than in open court.

There has been significant criticism of the length of time for which suspects remain on police bail and this new measure aims to address that.

It appears to be a welcome change, which will reduce the number of suspects being kept on bail for extended periods of time after arrest while awaiting an outcome. Similarly, it will mean the same for victims and witnesses, who may find they receive closure, or that their case is resolved, sooner than under the old police bail system.

The reduced time limits may mean that victims and witnesses are able to give better evidence as their memories of events will be clearer as, in some cases, less time will have passed between the event and any eventual trial.

However, there are drawbacks too and these time limits may impose greater strains on already under-resourced police forces. More administrative work will be required of police officers, with the potential effect being that further demands are placed on them and investigations are conducted less efficiently. Further, complex crimes, such as cyber crime, naturally attract longer investigation times than others and so applications for extensions to bail time limits may become commonplace. Naturally, this too will lead to more administrative work for the police and the courts.

As this is the first day since the change, the effect is yet to be seen but it is hoped that, overall, it will now be a fairer system for suspects, victims and witnesses alike.

Sarah Gerrard

Practice Areas: 
Crime