- Thousands of violent crime suspects have been released in the past 12 months without any bail conditions.
- It’s a result of a 28 day limit on bail being introduced last year.
- This has raised concerns over the safety of victims and witnesses of violent crimes.
Over the past 12 months, over 3,000 people suspected of violent crime, murder, rape and sexual offences have been released on bail without conditions, according to the BBC.
Among them are 1,692 people arrested for violent crimes, 768 for rape charges, and 31 who were questioned on suspicion of murder.
New regulations on bail in England and Wales came into effect in April last year, which means police can only bail someone for a limit of 28 days, and if it is deemed “necessary and appropriate” to do so.
In special circumstances, a senior police officer can authorise an extension of up to three months, but longer periods can only be granted by a court. The changes were made to stop police bailing suspects for very long periods of time, as previously there was no legal limit.
Last week, the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICFRS) – the watchdog for policing in England and Wales – issued a statement that victims could be at risk if suspects were released without any bail conditions.
Some common conditions of bail include living at a particular address, not contacting certain people, giving in your passport so you can’t leave the country, and reporting to a police station once a week. They are often a way to ensure the safety of victims of the crimes.
“Bail is a demonstration that someone is looking out for them,” Zoe Billingham, inspector of constabulary, told the BBC. “The pendulum has swung too far in one direction, we suspect.”
Victims of domestic abuse are at a particular risk, according to the charity Women’s Aid.
“We need certainty that the police are applying bail conditions in domestic abuse cases,” a spokesperson told the BBC. “There needs to be clear understanding of the risk and threat of harm to domestic abuse victims.”
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said that it heard the concerns, and Assistant Chief Constable Darren Martland said changes were under constant review.
The Home Office said in cases of domestic abuse, police response should not change. Also, bail conditions are still used where necessary to protect victims and witnesses.