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Thousands of violent crime suspects released following 'disastrous' bail reforms


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Shocking figures have confirmed our worst fears, staff association says


The Police Federation has reiterated its concerns over the government’s decision to reform bail rules.

The law, which came into effect last April, limits the bail period to 28 days, in a bid to reduce the possible negative impact on individuals on bail, such as mental trauma and financial implications.

Since then, twelve forces released more than 3,000 violent crime, murder, rape and sexual offences suspects, figures obtained by the BBC revealed. Meanwhile the recent HMICFRS effectiveness reportshows pre-charge bail has dropped by 65 per cent.

HMIs examined how the new bail provisions are working and concluded there is a “risk of unintended consequences in the recent changes in bail legislation”.

The findings have riled the federation, who warned about the dangers when the new rules were originally proposed.

Andy Ward, national deputy general said the report, which also shows a 65 per cent reduction in the use of bail for domestic abuse cases, has “confirmed many of its worst fears”.

He said: “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 it is “disappointing” that HMIs appear to be critical of forces not dealing with the fallout, despite stakeholders stressing concerns during the consultation process.

“The Federation and forces warned that problems were inevitable if the legislation was introduced as the government and Home Office had proposed."

The report recommends 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 the 28-day time limit is “unrealistic” for complex investigations such as those involving cyber-crime, which requires computers to be seized and to be forensically analysed, which can be a lengthy process.

NPCC lead for bail management, Assistant Chief Constable Darren Martland said: "We recognise the concerns that have been raised about the reduction in the use of bail.

“It is important that we keep the implementation of these changes under review to ensure that we continue to protect those in the most vulnerable situations. We welcome the recommendations of HMICFRS on this.

"We are working closely with forces, the College of Policing, Home Office and criminal justice partners to ensure that guidance on bail and release under investigation (RUI) is clear and that officers fully understand the considerations of vulnerabilities, threats and the individual merits of each case to determine the most appropriate course of action."

A Home Office spokesman said: “Reforms to pre-charge bail balance carefully the interests of victims and witnesses, those on bail and the police.

"Pre-charge bail, including conditions, continues to be available where it is necessary and proportionate, such as to protect victims and witnesses, while the reforms should also reduce the possible negative impact on individuals on bail, such as mental trauma and financial implications.

“The Minister for Policing and the Fire Service wrote to chief constables in December, asking them to review their forces' use of bail in order to ensure that those who objectively should be on bail are not being released without conditions.”

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This is an interesting story from the North American perspective where nothing like pre-charge bail exists. Here, you either have enough to charge, in which case you arrest someone and charge them, or you don't, in which case you do nothing (or at least very little).

What I can't really understand is why the police in the UK want to take so much responsibility for situations where there isn't enough to charge and the suspect has to be released. I can understand the public being horrified that thousands of dangerous people are released by the police, but so what? It's not the fault of the police that there isn't enough evidence to charge and the suspect has had to be released.

And if they go on to commit serious offences after being released from custody, again, so what? It might be tragic and upsetting for the victims, but it's hardly the responsibility of the police who never even had the power to decide to charge or not.

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Good post @stewie_griffin. It certainly is refreshing to see some common sense.

My personal view is we have a situation in the UK now that every action or subsequent action of a person who has come to police attention is somehow the responsibility of the Police or more specifically the officer dealing with that incident. I am all for safeguarding and tying to protect people but you’re right, often we can’t really stop bad things from happening but I think with the bosses, politicians and media that will never be good enough.

Interesting point too regarding the differences, makes more sense the way it’s done where you are.

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