What is the background to being released under investigation?

In 2017, the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, began a consultation to review pre-charge bail.

The consultation read, “A balance needs to be struck between the rights of those on police bail and securing justice for victims of crime.”

A number of high profile cases came to light involving suspects being on bail for up to a year and sometimes longer, only to have their case dropped without charge.

On the 3rd April 2017, The Policing and Crime Act 2017 legislation was brought in to change the way of policing. In particular, being released under investigation without police bail, which can still be in effect if ‘necessary and proportionate in the circumstances’.

The changes were brought in to remedy the problem of a suspect being on police bail for a long time, which left uncertainty for both victim and suspect.

In addition to this, conditions were often added to the bail that were restrictive, such as curfews, exclusions from returning to home addresses or contacting certain people, which could be seen as a punishment for a person under investigation.

When given consideration to pre-charge bail or being released under investigation, the police/crown prosecutions service will need to take into account the victim and witnesses need for support and protection, especially in the case of a vulnerable person or someone at serious risk of harm.

Tag On Ankle

Does the legislation work in everyday practice?

In dealing with police investigations, we are seeing a pattern whereby a suspect released under investigation’s case is taking far longer to resolve than a suspect who answers police bail. This does not address the main reason it was brought in to expedite the case.

The scrutiny that is applied to bail cases is lacking in cases that are released under investigation, which has left cases without a decision for months and, in some cases, years.

In the case of a suspect on police bail, there is a definitive date to return to the police station. This had the effect of focussing the mind of the investigating officer on making progress. In contrast, a person released under investigation had no date to return, and this can lead to investigations drifting unnecessarily.

Is there a prosecution time limit to a police investigation?

In the case of a summary only offence tried in the magistrates’ court, there is a 6 month prosecution time limit from the date the alleged offence was committed to charging or summoning a suspect with the offence. Examples of this are common assault and a number of road traffic offences.

We are therefore finding that in some cases, the police are no longer able to prosecute where the investigation is taking too long. They are effectively “out of time” to proceed with the prosecution.

In these cases, it is not always a good idea to chase up the police. They may realise their pending error and speed the process up. To quote Napoleon Bonaparte, “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

Magistrates Court

How long can I be on police pre-charge bail for?

Suspects placed on pre-charge bail with conditions are granted an initial 28-day bail period. This can, in some cases, be converted into being released under investigation, meaning that any bail conditions in place would cease to apply.

An officer of the rank of superintendent can extend police bail for a further three months. Any further extensions will have to be applied for to a magistrate’s court. The police must have good reasons for extensions.

Being on police bail previously had no time limits and was authorised by a custody sergeant.

What type of case is it appropriate to impose police pre-charge bail in?

In general, the more serious the case, the more likely it is that bail will be imposed, and depending on perceived risk factors, conditions will be attached to the bail.

In a case of domestic violence or harassment, the suspect will usually be given pre-charge bail conditions to not contact the victim directly or indirectly, as well as a location ban to prevent them from attending the victims home. If the suspect is a flight risk, the police could put in place a residence, reporting and signing on condition at a local police station.

If released under investigation, there would be no safeguard measures in place to protect the alleged victim in these scenarios.

Police Sign

How long can I be released under investigation for?

No actual time limits are in place, but police are under a duty to deal with cases expeditiously.

In a case of a sexual nature, the police may have to look into digital forensic analysis of devices seized, which can take a very long time.

In line with the new legislation, it would be unfair to keep a suspect on bail whilst the investigation is ongoing.

If a suspect is on bail and digital evidence has to be examined, this can take more than three months. In this case, bail must be extended by a magistrate’s court. A suspect with or without a solicitor can oppose this application.

When released under investigation, we see very minimal if any contact between the police and suspect. Usually, no confirmation if the case has been dropped or not.

When released under investigation, there may be a need for a further interview if any new evidence from enquiries has come to light.

The police can either make an arrest or invite you in for this interview to take place on a voluntary police interview basis, which is the usual practice.

What type of case is it appropriate to release under investigation in?

Generally, less serious cases or cases where there is minimal risk of re-offending or interference with witnesses are suitable for release under investigation.

An example could be that an assault that took place in a public house, and the victim and suspect are not known to each other.

The police have outstanding enquiries to make prior to making a charging decision. This can include obtaining CCTV evidence and/or obtaining witness statements.

Woman Watching CCTV

Are there any conditions implemented when being released under investigation?

When released under investigation, there are no conditions in place that a suspect would have to adhere to.

The police will usually warn a suspect that if they are seen to interfere with the investigation, they could be liable to be arrested for further offences, which an example of could be witness intimidation or attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Am I subject to any travel restrictions when released under investigation?

The answer is no. Only suspects who are given police bail to return would have to abide by the conditions imposed, which may involve a residence or signing on at the police station requirement as part of the conditions.

What are the possible outcomes following on from being released under investigation or pre-charge bail?

  • To take no further action if there is insufficient evidence to prosecute.
  • To prosecute, in which a summons (postal requisition) will be sent out to attend court on a specified date and time or issued at a charge desk.
  • A further interview, which can follow on from a further arrest or an invite in for a voluntary interview.
  • Issuing the suspect with a community resolution, caution or conditional caution, which are out of court disposal options. These would require admissions on the part of the suspect.

Conducting Police Interview

What proactive steps can you take to assist me with my ongoing police investigation?

  • Post Interview: We will invite you in for an initial office meeting to obtain your detailed instructions and to consider any documentation that you have relating to the investigation. We will advise on the strengths and weaknesses in your case.
  • We can make contact with the investigating officer to obtain information about your case.
  • Pre-Charge Engagement: We can look to identify any lines of enquiry or witnesses that we feel are beneficial to your case to assist in any defence, and that should be looked into prior to a charging decision being made.
  • Making the necessary written or oral representations on your behalf to the police/crown prosecution service with the aim it brings about a successful resolution to your case.
  • Conducting regular case follow-ups with the investing officer to expedite the case.
  • If there were to be a further police interview under caution, we would look to attend in person to provide legal advice and assistance throughout.

What type of information will you look to obtain from the police?

If released under investigation or on pre-charge bail, we would look to make a request for the information from the list. Which can include but is not limited to the following:

  • Date, time and location of all allegations made.
  • The circumstances of the allegations.
  • Any previous cautions/convictions.
  • Any previous reports of a similar nature made by the complainant.
  • A summary or copy of any CCTV and body cam footage.
  • Has any statements/abe video interviews been completed, and if so, who by? Are the witnesses and complainants in support of prosecution?
  • A summary or copy of the complainant’s first account and/or video interview.
  • A summary or copy of the client’s interview account that has already been provided.
  • Details of any forensic or medical evidence, including the presence of any injuries.
  • Any home address searches and anything of evidential value seized.
  • Are there any co-suspects, and if so, what accounts have they been provided by them in the interview?
  • The date and time of the first report to police. If a delay in doing so, is there a reason for this?

There is a request made for similar information in the case of a suspect who has had their first police interview under caution and has been issued a pre-charge engagement notice by the police.

If you used a duty lawyer in your initial interview or were not legally represented, you can instruct us to assist with your police investigation from hereon.

We offer an initial free no-obligation consultation and are available 24/7 to assist with your police investigation enquiry.

Please do not hesitate to contact our 24-hour line of 0800 2335822 in the case of an emergency or to book an appointment.

We look forward to hearing from you.