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Significant concerns over impact of bail rule change on vulnerable victims


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Chiefs fear law change has resulted in confusion.

Significant concerns over impact of bail rule change on vulnerable victims


Date - 23rd August 2018
By - Ian Weinfass - Police Oracle
4 Comments4 Comments}


Changes to bail rules mean vulnerable victims and witnesses may have been placed at risk, chiefs fear.

Last year, despite warnings from the NPCC and College of Policing, the Home Office changed the law to mean there should be a presumption that bail won’t be imposed on suspects before charge.

Figures gathered from nine forces show an 87 per cent drop in arrests resulting in bail in the first 12 months after the legislation changed.

The number of detainees on bail for serious violent or so-called “high harm” offences fell by 75 per cent, and serious sexual offences and domestic abuse cases by 72 per cent.

Acting Deputy Chief Constable Darren Martland, NPCC lead for bail, told a recent chief constables’ council meeting: “Whilst there is no evidence of this process being misused, significant concerns have been highlighted in relation to potential ‘unintended consequences’ of the legislative change and, more specifically, whether pre-charge bail is being used to protect vulnerable victims and witnesses.

“It has also been highlighted that the ‘presumption to release without bail’ may have caused confusion and disproportionately affected decision making in relation to the availability of pre-charge bail.”

HMICFRS warned of issues arising from the new law last year.

The charity Women’s Aid said on Twitter, in response to a story in The Times on the issue: “Women and children experiencing domestic abuse need the police to protect them from further violence at every stage of seeking help.

“We urge the police to use pre-charge bail conditions to ensure that survivors feel safe after reporting abuse.”

Chiefs have decided to continue monitoring the impact of the changes on vulnerable victims and witnesses, as well as on broader disposal outcomes.

But a Home Office spokesman said: “These reforms have ended the injustice of people languishing on restrictive and very lengthy periods of pre-charge bail, with fewer people on bail for shorter periods of time.

“Nothing in these reforms should adversely affect public protection.

“Where pre-charge bail is necessary to protect the public, including conditions attached to that bail, the police are still able to impose bail.

“We are continuing to make this message clear to police forces across the country.”

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In fairness people are rarely released on bail without conditions for DV cases or where there is a likelihood of serious harm to witnesses/victims. Let’s just get this out of the way.

I do accept however that some cases may slip through the net.

The government with their usual policies of finding a good soundbite with no substance, didn’t really have a clue what they were talking about with bail. They haven’t really made anything better for the suspect or victim as now I release a suspect UI, I don’t have any sort of time limits (with the exception of summary offences)  so the person may actually be ‘languishing’ a lot longer before finding out if they’ll be prosecuted or not. 

The other issue is pre charge police bail is useless in many cases. There is usually a reason that the person has been bailed anyway and often due to issues around the custody clock arresting can be completely inappropriate anyway, the same before the changes. 

The other thing to consider is many many more suspects are now dealt with as voluntary attendees, once they leave the station there are no conditions from this other than the warnings a cop will give them.

I think the way to look at it more generally is a piece of paper usually won’t stop someone committing further offences anyway, I’m talking about the more serious offending here as they are already breaking the law in the first place, I don’t think the world has massively changed in that respect since the changes.

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