Bail: What is it?

November 10, 2020, By

Bail is a set of restrictions imposed on a suspect to ensure they comply with a police investigation of the court process. It is the conditional release of a suspect with the promise to later appear at the police station or court.

The court or the police could issue bail against a suspect or defendant. It can take different forms, and depends on each individual case. In this blog we explain the various types that can be issued.

Before Charge

A suspect could be released on bail by the police before they are charged with a crime but whilst they remain a suspect.

Pre-charge bail means that the person is under a legal obligation to return to the police station on a specified date and time. If they fail to do so, they can be arrested.

It must be ‘necessary and proportionate’ to release a person on pre-charge bail. These terms are not defined and can be widely interpreted by the police, but reasons should be given as to why they believe it to be necessary and proportionate.

Bail will normally be granted when the police have insufficient evidence and need to gather more information before they know if they can charge the suspect or not. It allows the police to continue with their investigations whilst enabling the suspect to continue to live their life.

A suspect may also be placed on pre-charge bail if the police have referred the case to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for a charging decision.

Police can, however, impose certain conditions on the bail.

     Bail Conditions

If a suspect is released on bail before they are charged, the police may restrict what they can do.

For example, if a person is being investigated for assault, the police may enforce restrictions stopping them from interfering with the victim. Similarly, if the investigations involve crimes against children, the suspect may be restricted from being alone with children under the age of 18 or entering a specified radius from schools and nurseries.

Another example would be investigations of repeated theft in a shopping centre. The suspect may be restricted from entering this area. If such conditions are breached, the police have the power to arrest the suspect.

     Time Limits

There is a 28-day limit on pre-charge bail. This means that the police have 28 days to investigate before they either charge a suspect or release them.

In some circumstances, this 28-day period can be extended by a senior police officer up to a maximum of 3 months. Further extensions need to be authorised by the Magistrates’ Court.

After Charge

The police have two options once they have charged a suspect:

  1. Keep the suspect in custody at the police station; or
  2. Release the suspect on bail with or without conditions.

In the first instance, the suspect would be held in prison until they face the Magistrates’ Court for the first hearing. All criminal cases begin at the Magistrates.

In the second instance, if the suspect is released on bail, they will be required to attend the Magistrates’ Court for their first appearance on a specified date and time.

Again, conditions may be imposed on the bail. If these conditions are breached, the police can arrest the person. Within 24 hours the person will appear before the Magistrates’ Court for them to determine whether or not the bail conditions were breached.

Court Bail

After an appearance before the Magistrates’ Court, once charged with an offence, the court can decide whether to grant bail to a defendant or whether they should be remanded (held) in police custody. This is for the time between court hearings.

There is a legal presumption that a defendant will be granted bail between hearings whenever a case is adjourned. However, this presumption may not always apply.

For example, if the defendant is charged with a serious offence such as murder, manslaughter or rape, the presumption of bail may not apply to them.

The presumption may also not apply to defendants when there are substantial grounds for believing that the defendant would fail to appear at the police station or court as required, commit a further offence or interfere with witnesses when released on bail.

Unconditional Bail

There is a presumption that all defendants will have a right to unconditional bail.

If the court considers there to be no risk that the defendant might reoffend, abscond or interfere with victims/witnesses, unconditional bail ought to be granted.

Conditional Bail

The court might grant bail to a defendant with certain conditions attached if the substantial grounds such as reoffending, listed above, are believed. These conditions are put in place to ensure that the defendant does, or doesn’t do something as ordered by the court whilst they are on bail.

Conditions can include:

  • Reporting to a police station;
  • Electronic tagging;
  • Sureties (someone who guarantees a payment of money to the court if the defendant does not attend at the next hearing);
  • Residence (requires the defendant to stay at a specified address);
  • Curfew;
  • Restrictions from entering a specified area or communicating with specified people;
  • Surrender of passport.

How we can help

If you have questions about bail either before charge by the police or after attending court, one of our expert solicitors can be on hand to help. We cannot stress enough the importance of legal representation when dealing with the police and the courts.

Please call us on 0161 969 3131 to speak with one of our criminal law team. You can also fill in our confidential contact form and we will be in touch with you as quickly as possible.