31 March 2017

Changes to police bail across England and Wales

Changes to police bail across England and Wales will come into force on Monday, 3 April 2017.

​Under the new legislation, which was given Royal Assent in January, the powers to release on bail have changed.

What do I need to know?

  • Changes to bail will come into effect and apply to all arrests made from Monday, April 3 onwards.
  • The biggest change is there is now a presumption of release without bail in almost all cases, including those where a suspect is arrested for breach of bail, unless it meets strict criteria around necessity and proportionality.
  • There are three main bail periods that the police can authorise. These are:

1. Initial bail for 28 days authorised by an inspector
2. An extension to the initial bail period, to three calendar months from the bail start date, authorised by a superintendent
3. A further three calendar month's extension, authorised by an assistant chief constable or commander, for exceptionally complex cases. Further clarity on this can be found in the College's online training.

NOTE: All other extensions to the bail period beyond this point will have to be authorised by a Magistrates' Court.

David Tucker, Crime Lead at the College of Policing, said: "The new legislation is a significant change for policing and has sought to strike a balance between the need for police to manage investigations and not leaving a person suspected of a crime on bail for an unacceptably long period.

"Last year we contributed evidence around a study carried out by the College as part of the extensive national debate around this complex issue.

"We recognise this is a major change for policing and we are supporting our members by providing high quality training materials to help them continue to manage investigations to bring criminals to justice and protect the public."

NOTE: If you did the training before 21 March 2017 please note there have been changes.
Since the publication of the College's briefing materials on 31 January 2017, the Home Office has revised its interpretation of two provisions within the Act.

  1. Differences when bailing or rebailing from a police station
  2. How much time is granted when CPS request further information, following an initial release for a CPS charging decision.

We have therefore amended this material to provide the most current interpretation of the law and you can log back in to view these.

If you have difficulties accessing the MLE please contact the College Customer Contact Centre at contactcentre@college.pnn.police.uk or call 0800 692 1122.

To assist forces the College has also set up a discussion called 'Pre-charge bail implementation' which can be accessed through the Police Online Knowledge Area (POLKA) and appears in the 'custody' community. The College of Policing will monitor this discussion to offer assistance and is encouraging others to contribute with practical responses.
Overall look at the Policing and Crime Act 2017

It includes provisions which the Home Office states will:

  1. Reform pre-charge bail to put a stop to people remaining on bail for lengthy periods with no independent judicial scrutiny of its continued necessity
  1. Better enable chief officers to make the most efficient and effective use of their workforce by giving them the flexibility to confer a wider range of powers on police staff and volunteers (whilst for the first time specifying a core list of powers that may only be exercised by warranted police officers) and conferring a power on the Home Secretary to specify police ranks in regulations, thereby affording the flexibility to introduce a flatter rank structure
  1. Place a new duty on police, fire and rescue and emergency ambulance services to collaborate where it is in the interests of their efficiency or effectiveness and enable police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to take on responsibility for the governance of fire and rescue services, where a local case is made
  1. Improve the response to those in mental health crisis, including stopping those under 18 from being detained in a police station and restricting such detention for adults by reforming police powers under sections 135 and 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983
  1. Reform the police disciplinary and complaints systems to ensure that the public have confidence in their ability to hold the police to account, and that police officers will uphold the highest standards of integrity
  1. Increase in the maximum sentence for stalking involving fear of violence from five to ten years' imprisonment
  1. Amend the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), including to ensure that 17-year-olds who are detained in police custody are treated as children for all purposes, and to facilitate the increased use of video link technology
  1. Amend the firearms acts to better protect the public by closing loopholes that can be exploited by criminals and terrorists, and by issuing statutory guidance to ensure that the robust processes we have in place for assessing suitability to hold a firearms certificate are applied consistently
  1. Confer pardons, subject to conditions, for individuals living or deceased who were convicted of now abolished gay sex offences
  1. Improve protection for victims of forced marriage and give them more confidence to come forward by providing them with lifelong anonymity.

This Home Office circular summarises the provisions in the Policing and Crime Act 2017 that come into effect on Monday, 3 April 2017.

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