Legal eagle: Bail or ‘under investigation’?

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Q: I was recently arrested by the police and interviewed at a police station. They told me that I was being released but they didn’t give me any bail conditions. What does this mean? Am I on bail and when will I find out what is happening next?

A: The rules around police bail changed significantly on 1 April 2017. Before this, the police could release individuals following interview at the police station on bail and impose conditions for them to comply with. This bail could continue for up to one year whilst the police investigated the offence and came to a decision about progressing the case to court or dealing with it in some other way.

The law left those being released from the police station with an ongoing investigation facing lengthy delays whilst very little was sometimes happening to progress the investigation by the police. The change in the law was designed to stop this from happening in the future. The police can now only impose bail for up to 28 days unless strict criteria are met and rules followed to extend this. The benefit of the new rules was expected to be that investigations would progress faster but it has had the opposite effect.

Instead of releasing suspects on bail, the police now release them “under investigation”. This means that there is no bail, but the police investigation continues. There is no set date to return to the police station and answer bail, and as a result there is often a lack of progression in the police investigation. There is no time limit for how long the police can have someone “under investigation” and individuals could wait longer than a year for the police to make a decision. The police still have a responsibility to notify anyone “under investigation” of the outcome of their case once that investigation has concluded, but the problem now is that it is not clear when the investigation should conclude.

It sounds like you have been released from the police station in this way. If you have, you will not be subject to any bail conditions and there is no set date to find out what is happening next. If you don’t already have one, you should contact a solicitor as soon as possible and ask them to assist you in making enquiries to check if this is correct and chase up an outcome from the police.

l Ben Hoare Bell LLP has several specialist Criminal Defence Solicitors in Sunderland and the surrounding areas. To speak to a Solicitor please phone 0191 565 3112 or email advice@benhoarebell.co.uk. Visit www.benhoarebell.co.uk for further information.