UK

28-day police bail limit proposed for England and Wales

Police lamp outside police station Image copyright PA
Image caption The proposals would be the "greatest reform" of police bail legislation in 30 years, the home secretary said

The time people can be put on pre-charge police bail could be limited to 28 days, the home secretary has said.

Revealing the proposal, Theresa May said it "cannot be right that people can spend months or even years on pre-charge bail with no oversight".

The limit could be extended in exceptional circumstances through a court application, she said.

It follows high-profile cases where suspects have been placed on bail for long periods but never charged.

The proposal forms part of a consultation paper published by the Home Office setting out potential changes that would result in "the greatest reform of that legislation" in 30 years, Mrs May said.

'Statutory time limit'

Proposals include revising the Police and Criminal Evidence Act so suspects under investigation can be released without bail.

Mrs May also proposed measures to increase co-operation between the police and other public sector organisations so evidence can be obtained more quickly.

She told MPs the government was "determined" to support police, but said the plans would reduce the number of people subjected to pre-charge police bail and the average time spent on bail.

"That is why we launched a review to fundamentally re-examine the way pre-charge bail is used and authorised", Mrs May said.

"I encourage people to share their views and help shape these reforms."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Theresa May says the proposed changes will reduce the number of people on pre-charge police bail

Figures published by BBC Radio 5live in October found that 71,526 people were on pre-charge bail at that time from 40 police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

That figure included 5,480 people who had been on bail for more than six months. One suspect had been on bail for three-and-a-half years from the Metropolitan Police.

BBC broadcaster Paul Gambaccini was on bail for a year before the Crown Prosecution Service concluded he would not face action over alleged historical sex offences.

He said he had suffered "12 months of trauma".

The proposed changes follow a campaign backed by former Home Office minister Damian Green which warned people were "languishing in a form of legal limbo" in the current bail system.

The consultation will be open until 8 February 2015.

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