On 5 February, Enfield Southgate MP Bambos Charalambous, in his new role as shadow justice minister, initiated a debate in Westminster Hall about excessive use by the police of "release under investigation" rather than release on police bail.
Pressure from all sides of the House during debate in Westminster Hall has forced the Government to bring consultation forward on urgent changes needed to RUI. https://t.co/FocOi6LTT1 pic.twitter.com/SrjT1qLqaI— Bambos Charalambous (@Bambos_MP) February 5, 2020
As he explained:
The first important point to make is that being released under investigation is different from being released on police bail. When a person is released on bail, they are subject to certain conditions. For instance, they may be required to live at a particular address, not to contact certain people, to give in their passport so they cannot leave the UK, or to report to a police station at an agreed time—perhaps once a week. With release under investigation, the situation is dramatically different. The accused is released with no time limit—it could be for weeks, months or years—and is not subject to any conditions at all. That means the accused is free to contact anyone, including their alleged victim, and to go anywhere, including leaving the UK. It also means that those who are falsely accused can be left in a state of limbo for years, not knowing whether they
One of the consequences has been that alleged victims of domestic violence are put at risk. In one example a woman reported her ex-husband for repeatedly raping her during their 13-year marriage. He was released by the police after interview with no conditions. He forced his way into her house at 2am, held her hostage for five hours, cut her with a broken glass and tied her to a table.
During the debate a government minister announced that the Home Secretary was launching a consultation about the use of pre-trial bail:
We have listened to those concerns and decided to act. On 5 November, as a number of hon. Members mentioned, we announced a review of pre-charge bail to ensure that we have a system that prioritises victims and supports the police, while also respecting the rights of suspects. As part of that review, we have today launched a consultation, and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made a written ministerial statement with four proposals.
First, we would remove the presumption against the use of pre-charge bail. Secondly, we would ensure that bail was used when necessary and proportionate, including cases where there are risks to victims, witnesses and the public, as well as where the offences in question had significant real or intended impacts. Thirdly, we would extend the timescales for initial use of bail from 28 days to either 60 or 90 days, to more accurately reflect the timescales for complex cases. Fourthly, we would apply review periods to cases where individuals are not subject to bail, such as RUI, or where they are not arrested.