14 January 2021
The National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has welcomed reforms to the pre-charge bail system and said ‘arrogantly pushed through’ changes which failed victims never should have happened in the first place.
Stark warnings were issued by PFEW and policing leaders in 2017 after Theresa May introduced the cap on pre-charge bail as part of the Policing and Crime Act, meaning the period people could be placed on pre-charge bail was limited to 28 days.
Today (January 14) the Home Office published its response to a consultation on pre-charge bail, which custody officers from the National Custody Forum fed into.
The initial pre-charge bail period is to increase from 28 days to three months (90 days), with further extensions requiring a sign-off from an inspector or above. This will cut red tape for police officers and prevent individuals being held under investigation for long periods.
Reacting to the announcement, National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales John Apter, said: “These changes to the bail system are much needed and long-overdue. However, we should not have had to campaign to reform the bail system because the disastrous changes to pre-charge bail conditions should never have happened in the first place.
“Despite multiple warnings from the Police Federation and others within policing, these changes were arrogantly pursued by a previous government. Those responsible for driving through those changes with the predictable damage that was caused have failed victims and justice."
The Federation successfully predicted pre-charge bail would drop dramatically and the release of suspects under investigation would become the norm.
Figures released under Freedom of Information laws showed the number of suspected offenders released while those still under investigation rose from 6,464 in 2016 to 97,473 in 2019, including violent and sexual offenders as well as domestic abusers.
The full package of reforms will be named ‘Kay’s Law’ in memory of Kay Richardson, who was tragically murdered by her ex-partner following his release while he was under previous investigation for domestic abuse.
“These reforms are welcomed, and it is refreshing to have a Government which listened to police officers during the consultation period and acted to give colleagues better support as they carry out investigations,” Mr Apter concluded.