May to order bail time limit review

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to announce a review today of whether to introduce a statutory time limit on how long people can be kept on police bail following several high-profile cases where suspects have been left waiting for years not knowing if they are to be charged.

The Metropolitan Police in particular has come under criticism in recent months after Operation Yewtree – the investigation set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal – has seen Paul Gambaccini, Jim Davidson and Freddie Starr left holding on for months.

Radio 2 presenter Gambaccini’s lawyers accused police of leaving him in limbo with no explanation after he was told last week that he would face no further action.

Mrs May will talk about the matter in a speech at the College of Policing annual conference today, along with the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa).

She is expected to say: ” I am pleased that the college is developing evidence based guidance to bring consistency, transparency and rigour to the way in which pre-charge bail is used in criminal investigations.

“You have consulted on the operational guidance and will publish your findings shortly.

“But in parallel we must also look at statutory time limits on the use of pre-charge bail to prevent people spending months or even years on bail only for no charges to be brought.”

Davidson and Starr have also been told they will face no further action after being questioned as part of Operation Yewtree.

Human rights group Liberty has called for a six-month statutory limit on pre-charge bail, describing it as the “only effective way of ensuring diligent and efficient police investigations and justice for victims and suspects”.

The recent furore over police accessing journalists’ phone records has sparked widespread calls for urgent reform of Ripa, which dates back to 2000 and allows officers to request call data from phone companies without a judge’s approval.

On the subject of Ripa, Mrs May is expected to say: ” I am clear that where the police hold sensitive powers, they must be used appropriately.

“This also goes to the heart of my reforms to Stop and Search, and I am delighted that all 43 forces have signed up to the Best Use scheme which was launched in August. And it is why we are conducting a review of the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

“I am already aware that there have been concerns over the use of Ripa to access journalists’ phone records and that is why we are revising the relevant code to make clear that specific consideration must be given to communications data requests involving those in sensitive professions, such as journalists.

“This code will be published in draft this autumn and will be subject to a full public consultation so that anyone with concerns can feed in their views.”

Published: Wednesday 15th October 2014 by The News Editor

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