UK

Top judges dismiss application to stay bail judgement

  • 5 July 2011
  • From the section UK
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The emblem of the Supreme Court
Supreme Court: Will hear bail appeal on 25 July

The Supreme Court has dismissed an attempt by police to suspend a legal ruling limiting police bail in England and Wales to a maximum of four days.

The court said it had already granted Greater Manchester Police's application to appeal against the ruling, but would not suspend it in the meantime.

The controversial judgement stops police from bailing suspects for more than four days.

MPs will vote on emergency bail legislation on Thursday.

The government's emergency legislation is expected to pass all of its Commons' hurdles on Thursday before going before the House of Lords next week.

In a statement, a spokesman for the three Supreme Court justices who had considered the application said Greater Manchester Police's application was "unusual".

"It is questionable whether it would be open to the court to grant this relief," he said.

"In any event, however, the judgement was given on 19 May and an application for permission to appeal was made on 21 June. The government has announced its intention to introduce emergency legislation this Thursday.

"In these circumstances, the court has decided that the application should be dismissed."

Although no date has yet been set to deal with the Police (Detention and Bail) Bill in the House of Lords, the government plans to have the new rules in force before the Supreme Court deals with GMP's appeal.

The crisis was sparked by a ruling in the case of murder suspect Paul Hookway who had been released on police bail while detectives continued their investigation.

The judgement said that officers would have to re-arrest suspects in order to detain or question them again beyond the four-day - or 96-hour - period - and could only do so with "new evidence".

In practical terms, the judgement means police cannot order a suspect to return for further questioning or enforce bail restrictions such as bans on contacting witnesses, after the end of the four-day period.

That decision overturned a quarter of a century of policing practice. Officers regularly release suspects on bail for weeks or months in some cases while inquiries continue.

At any one time, more than 80,000 suspects are on bail in England and Wales.

GMP alerted the Home Office to the judgement in May - but Police Minister Nick Herbert told MPs that its full implications only became clear after officials and leading barristers analysed the written judgement a month later.

But shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "We need to know urgently whether Government delays have contributed to the Supreme Court decision not to suspend the judgment on police bail.

"This means we have at least another week where the police find it difficult to enforce bail conditions or recall suspects."

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