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.