Police Bail for Suspects, thrown into Chaos!
In recent days it has emerged that a High Court decision has thrown what had been seen as the established interpretation of the law on bailing suspects into disarray.
After taking legal advice on the issue it does seem that most police forces now accept that for the time being at least the effect of the case is binding. The matter is however due to be appealed to the Supreme Court at the end of July and the Government has already suggested that there will be emergency legislation to rectify the situation.
The case of Hookway involved a murder investigation in which the police were initially entitled to hold the accused for up to 24 hours from the ‘Relevant time’ of him arriving at the police station. That period was extended by a superintendent up to 36 hours after arrival. As the police enquiry was not complete they had to apply to a court for a warrant of further detention which was granted for a further 36 hours. Before that time had elapsed the police bailed the suspect to return at a later date. A number of months passed and the suspect was re-bailed a number of times. The police then wanted to apply for another warrant for further detention. Ultimately the decision of the court was any extensions must be applied for within the periods specified within the Act.
The effect of this seems to be that for most ordinary cases by the end of 24 hours from arrival at the station the police ought to charge, take no further action or apply for extensions which could total up to 96 hours. If suspects are to be bailed whilst further enquiries take place this should be within the relevant time limits.
It is of note that this only applies to police bail during an investigation prior to charging and so bail to court is unaffected. The suggestion seems to be that if the police have insufficient evidence they should take no further action but it is of note that they have the power to re-arrest a suspect if new evidence is obtained.
If granted bail, the common view now seems to be that an accused person should still attend the police station to avoid committing a separate offence of failing to surrender. However, the police may only be able to book a suspect in to detention if there is new evidence.
It should be born in mind that the police do have the ability to commence cases by the issuing of a summons and so do not always need to charge people within the custody suite to bring the matter to court.
The approach of all police forces remains to be seen but the best advice that can be offered to anyone who is on police bail is to seek full advice from a solicitor specific to their individual case.
Commenting upon the issues raised by this case Dav Naghen a partner in our Criminal Law Department indicated:
“There has been much confusion surrounding the interpretation of this case. There may be circumstances where individuals and even the police do not know where they truly stand. There is no substitute for full legal advice based on the individual circumstances of each case. Given the expressed intention of the Government to pass emergency legislation on this issue, I hope that this is given proper consideration to balance the rights of detainees and the practical considerations that no doubt will be put forward by the police. I have seen cases where the accused has been on police bail for 18 months and that is not in the interests of the detainee, any victim or the interests of justice. There are many cases where people end up having to answer bail at the police station several times before any decision is made and again this is a practice which cannot be in the public interest. Against that it is of no assistance for victims or the accused to be told that there is no action on a matter only for the accused to be further arrested at a later date if new evidence that could not be obtained within a short period of time then comes to light. My only hope is that the Government will use this opportunity to create a more efficient system in which some of the worst practices of the police are eliminated or at least reduced to allow fairness to those who are accused (and often wrongly accused) of offences.”
Should you need any assistance regarding a Criminal allegation against you please contact Daven Naghen or Anita Toal on 01775 722261 or ask for Maples Solicitors LLP when booked in to the police station.
We are able to assist you upon all matters involving Criminal Law ranging from the very outset at the Police Station to the Crown Court and even appeal beyond to the Higher Courts.
It is likely that if you are suspected of a criminal offence that you will be interviewed at a Police Station and we will be able to attend with you no matter what time of day or night, or day of the week your attendance at the Police Station takes place.
It is likely that we will be able to provide this service at no fee to yourself as Police Station attendances are nearly always covered by the Legal Aid scheme.
Assistance at the Police Station may result in no further action being taken against you or possible alternative disposals such as a caution or a warning rather than a prosecution.
Our attendance at the Police Station may also result in your release from custody sooner than otherwise and we may make representation as to bail which will result in no conditions or less onerous conditions being imposed upon you.
We hold a Legal Aid Agency franchise and contract and subject to a means test and the merits of the case you may qualify for Legal Aid to cover your proceedings in both the Magistrates Court and Crown Court if necessary.
We have many years experience in applying for Legal Aid meaning that in many cases our fees will be met by public funds.
If you are not able to qualify for Legal Aid you should note that if you are successfully acquitted or the charges are dropped that our fees would be payable by way of a Defendant’s Costs Order from Central Funds again leaving you with nothing to pay.
If you do need to instruct us on a private paying basis we will keep you up to date with our costs and provide detailed estimates for each and every stage of your case.
The Team, headed by Daven Naghen from our Dispute Resolution Team has acquired a niche practice in the prosecution of health and safety breaches. The Team can also defend such matters and advise in respect of other regulatory offences (both from a defence and prosecution point of view) such as data protection, environmental protection, breach of planning law, food safety and hygiene, building regulations etc.
Legislation returns Police Station Bail to normal
Further to our recent article in which we highlighted the chaos that had been caused to Police Station bail returns following a court decision made in the case of Hookway, we can now confirm that the emergency legislation has been passed bringing the situation back to normal.
The Act was passed on 12 July 2011 and provides that periods spent on bail do not count towards the total detention period. This means that is someone is arrested and held in custody for 10 hours and then released on bail the custody clock is frozen and if they are booked back in to custody when they answer bail the police could detain the person without charge for up to a further 14 hours.
What does this mean for suspects? Unfortunately this means there is no problem with the police bailing on numerous occasions with no time limit for making a decision in the majority of cases. For summary only offences such as common assault there would be a six month time limit to lay the charge but for any offence which is capable of being heard in the Crown Court, the police can keep re-bailing often leaving persons on bail for significant periods of time.
Unusually the legislation is retrospective and so cuts off any possibility of civil claims for false imprisonment against the police for persons who were detained prior to this Act being passed.