Supreme Court to consider suspending bail ruling

image captionThe Association of Chief Police Officers said it had major concerns about the impact of the ruling

The Supreme Court will consider on Monday suspending a judgement that has thrown police bail into chaos.

Greater Manchester Police asked the UK's highest court to "stay" the ruling ahead of a full appeal this month.

Ministers are preparing emergency legislation after a High Court ruling that reversed years of bail practice.

The judgement means police in England and Wales cannot bail suspects for further questioning for more than four days, and may hamper investigations.

A stay is a legal tool used in cases where a judgement is given - but suspended to allow an appeal to be heard because of its possible implications. When the High Court ruled against Greater Manchester Police in May, the force did not ask for the judgement to be stayed pending a possible appeal.

A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court said that GMP's application to stay the judgement is likely to be considered by three justices on Monday morning.

If they grant the application, the stay would almost certainly bring the bail crisis to an end, providing Parliament passed emergency legislation before the full appeal in the case.

On Thursday, Policing Minister Nick Herbert told MPs that the Home Office would introduce the emergency bill as soon possible, legislation which already has the support of the opposition.

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".

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.

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

Mr Herbert told the Commons that police "believe that the judgement will have a serious impact on their ability to investigate crime".

"It is likely that in most forces there will not be enough capacity to detain everybody in police cells," he said.

"In other cases it risks impeding the police to such an extent that the investigation will have to be stopped because the detention time has run out.

"The judgement will also affect the ability of the police to enforce bail conditions."

The minister said that with about 80,000 suspects currently on bail, the government could not afford to wait for a Supreme Court appeal.

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