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A recent High Court ruling has changed the way the police detain suspects and how suspects are granted bail.
The police are allowed to detain someone for 24 hours which can be extended up to 36 hours by a senior officer and extended again up to 96 hours by a Magistrates Court. This is 4 days in total.
Since the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984 came into force, the police have followed a certain procedure when bailing a suspect during the course of an investigation whilst they carry out further enquiries.
As soon as a suspect arrives into custody, the ‘detention clock’, as it is known, starts. Until this new ruling, the detention clock would stop when a suspect is released on bail. If a suspect has to be taken back into custody for the purpose of a re-interview for example, the detention clock starts again from where it left off. An example of this is where a suspect was detained for 10 hours during his initial arrest, there would be 14 hours left on the detention clock. When the suspect arrives back into custody for a re-interview the clock starts again and the police would still have 14 hours left on the clock to charge or release the suspect. This would be the case even if the suspect had been on bail for 6 months.
The new ruling means that the detention clock continues to run even when a person is released on bail and not technically in detention. The effect of this is that in most cases the police only have 24 hours in which to charge or release a suspect. This is extended to 36 hours or 96 hours if the relevant authority for extension has been obtained. This clearly puts a lot of pressure on the police to deal with cases very quickly.
The result is that if the police cannot carry out all their enquiries within the relevant time, they are likely to release a suspect without charge then re-arrest the suspect if they obtain further evidence. If a suspect is released without charge whilst enquiries are being carried out, the police cannot impose bail conditions which might protect vulnerable victims or the administration of justice.
However, the benefit for suspects is that the police will no longer be able to bail repeatedly over excessive periods of time. There is also the argument that those who have offended are brought to justice more quickly.
The Government has announced that it intends to put emergency legislation to Parliament to overturn this ruling.
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