Q182: What is pre-charge bail?
When the police release a person from custody, but they have not been charged and the investigation is ongoing, that person may be released on bail. This means that they are under a legal duty to return to the police station at the date and time provided to them. Sometimes, conditions are attached to the bail, for example, not to contact the victim. Bail gives the police time to gather necessary evidence such as statements, CCTV evidence and forensic evidence.
There is an initial presumption that a person being released from police custody without being charged will be released under investigation (not on bail). However, there are situations where bail is appropriate, for example if the person has no permanent address and will be difficult to locate in order to conduct further enquiries, or if conditions need to be applied because the person is likely to abscond or intimidate victims or witnesses.
A person can initially only be put on bail for a maximum of 28 days (the applicable bail period), however this period can be extended by a Superintendent (by up to 3 calendar months) and extended further by the courts. The applicable bail period may be extended if, for example, the work on the investigation cannot be completed within the specified time limits. When granting bail, the bail date cannot fall beyond the applicable bail period.
If the case is sent to CPS for a charging decision to be made, the applicable bail period is suspended, and bail can be given for any length of time, until the decision is returned. However, it will re-start if further work is requested by CPS.
Breaching bail (i.e. failing to report to the police station at the allocated time) is an offence. Breaching bail conditions (i.e. failing to comply with any conditions that are attached to the bail) is not an offence, but in such circumstances, the police do have a power of arrest in order to bring the person back into police custody.