Lydia Pearce Legal Adviser, Tutor and Trainer Expert on Pre-Charge Bail
Lydia PearceLegal Adviser, Tutor and TrainerExpert on Pre-Charge Bail

"I fought the law and the... LAW CHANGED!"

Now that I've ruined a classic British punk song and ensured it sticks in your head for the rest of the day, let me show you how I changed the law (and it made everyone's lives better).

 

Last year I started looking into the new bail provisions of Policing and Crime Bill. These included the popular recommendation to limit pre-charge bail to an initial period of up to 28 days. At least that's what the politicians who were debating the bill believed. The hot topic flung around the Hansard debates was certainty and quicker results for suspects who had previously been hung out to dry on bail lasting months or even years.

 

But that was not what was written in the Bill as it had been published at that time. My reading of the bill showed that the words used meant that suspects would be kept on bail for 28 days exactly, and if this was extended then 3 months exactly or 6 months exactly. Now whilst this may be certain, it is most definitely not quick- especially in cases where a result could be gained in 3 days! Why have a suspect on bail for the other 25 days?

 

I spoke to the Home Office who were vague in their replies to my enquiries. They could not answer as to why the policitian's aims and the law as it was written were contradictory. The Home Office then copied a member of the National Police Chiefs' Council into our communications. Brilliantly (and probably to the annoyance of the Home Office) the NPCC agreed with me.

 

The NPCC had various concerns about the practical workability of the new bail provisions, but the error I had found in the drafting of the law gave them the tool they were looking for to go into battle with the Home Office.

 

Whilst I got on with the important business of giving birth in my kitchen the NPCC went into debate with the Home Office, armed with my analysis and arguments (which can be read in further detail in the article I wrote for Criminal Law and Justice Weekly).

 

The Home Office were forced to conceed that the law was wrong and prior to royal ascent on 31st January the law was amended to include the following clause:

 

S63:

S477ZA(4) This subsection applies where the custody officer believes that a decision as to whether to charge the person with the relevant offence would be made before the end of the applicable bail period in relation to that person.

 

Without the addition of this clause, as of the 3rd April all bails would have been for a set time and not a maximum time.

 

This would have been ridiculous for suspects whose cases could have been resolved in far less time. It would have been unworkable for police forces whose officers would have been forced to work different shifts in order to meet their bail obligations- this included bank holidays and significant dates since the original law made no provision for those days. It would have meant protracted proceedings for victims who would be left waiting a result for an unfair length of time.

 

I am very proud to know that all these problems were avoided by my forward thinking, planning, persuasion and tenacity.

 

I look forward to being instrumental in the improvement of the law as I progress through my career, but for now it's time for me to get on with my pupillage interviews.

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