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  • Tess McCarthy

What happens if I breach my pre-charge bail?

Updated: Feb 20

Pre-charge bail


If you have been arrested for an offence, taken to the police station and interviewed, there are a number of potential outcomes. Read here for more information about the possibilities.


One of those options is that the police bail the individual whilst the investigation continues and before a decision is made whether to charge or drop the case.

You might be bailed for a number of reasons, which include:


  • There was not enough evidence to charge you when you were arrested, so you are bailed to return to the police station for further investigations to take place in the meantime;

  • The police think they might have enough evidence to charge you, but they await review and a decision from the Crown Prosecution Service; or

  • The police are not in a position to charge, and any risk to preservation or securing of evidence is no longer a concern.


The police can bail you with or without conditions while they continue their investigation.


This article deals with the scenario where you are bailed with conditions attached and have breached those conditions.


Bail conditions


Bail conditions imposed by the police must be specific, achievable, and enforceable. Therefore, you should not be bailed with a condition that is impossible for you to keep to.


Bail conditions can be varied but tend to be along the lines of the following:


  • Not to contact, directly or indirectly, [a prosecution witness];

  • Not to attend [an address relevant to the offence or the complainant];

  • Not to enter [a location at which the offence is alleged to have taken place]; and

  • To sign on at the police station on a particular day, time and frequency.


These will generally be justified by their tendency to prevent interference with witnesses through chance encounters or otherwise, prevent further offending, and ensure you remain in touch with and traceable by police while the police investigation is ongoing before a charging decision is made.


Breaching a condition of bail


It is never advisable to knowingly breach a condition of bail, whether it is police bail or imposed by a Court.


Whilst it is not a criminal offence to breach a condition of pre-charge police bail, the ramifications of breach can be very serious, in particular with the following:


Arrest

The police are actively encouraged to make arrests when bail is breached, and the police have powers to do so without warrant. Any person who is released on bail can be arrested where the police have grounds to suspect they have breached their conditions. What follows is the police taking the individual back to the original police station they were arrested and bailed from and a decision being made whether they can be charged for the original offence.


A charge for the original offence

If you have not committed a further offence in the process of breaching your bail, the Police nevertheless have a 3-hour pause on the custody clock after arresting you. This time is often used to try to get a charge fast-tracked for the original offence. This means, not only will you spend further time in police custody, but you may well prompt your original case being prioritised for a charging decision, which can result in you being remanded into custody.


Time in police detention

Further, you may have had many hours left on your custody clock (24 hours) when you were originally released from the police station. You could be kept in custody for this remaining time plus the three-hour pause while police decide how to proceed.


Committing a further offence

It is also important to consider that in the process of breaching your bail condition, you may well be committing a further offence. For example, you may be guilty of witness intimidation or perverting the course of justice if you directly or indirectly contact someone you are prohibited from contacting. This would take priority over the breach itself and a charging decision will made be made promptly.


It is in your best interests to ensure you stick to your bail conditions for these reasons. If you are unsure about what your bail conditions mean or the extent to which they apply, it is important to get in touch with a legal professional or clarify these with police to avoid any inadvertent breaches.

What happens if I don't show up for my bail to return date?


When you are bailed from the police station, a bail sheet is provided which tells you the date when you are required to return along with a warning that you will be committing an offence if you don’t attend. You will be asked to signed this sheet before being released on bail.


This means that you are required to attend the police station on the specified date, time and location. If you fail to attend, without reasonable excuse, you may be committing an offence for which, as the bail sheet provides, you may be separately fined, imprisoned, or both.


If you are arrested and taken to the police station for this, the police will make a decision as to whether the conditions are met for you to be charged with an offence. If they are not, you may be released on bail with the same conditions as before.


It is important to consider that the police may not have completed their investigation by your bail date. We will contact the officer in the case in the lead up to your bail to return date to confirm whether they are ready and we will let you know.


If there is any doubt about whether you should attend, the safest position is to attend the police station to answer bail in accordance with your bail sheet.


Important considerations to keep in mind


It is important to note that any breaches or failures to surrender on police bail will be recorded, regardless of the outcome. This could damage your credibility later down the line if you’re charged. This is whether you saw any immediate repercussions for the breaches or not.


For example, if you are later charged, sent to Court, convicted and sentenced for the original offence, a Judge may be less likely to give you a community-based sentence due to your record of failing to keep to conditions previously imposed on you.


If it becomes extremely difficult to stick to your conditions or your circumstances change significantly, such as a change of address when bailed to live and sleep at a previous address, you must get in touch with your legal representative and/or the police with as much notice as possible about the change. This will avoid any inadvertent breaches and therefore unnecessary arrests for breach of bail.


Legal disclaimer: Articles are intended as an introduction to the topic and do not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein is accurate at the date of publication but please note that the law is ever changing and evolving. If you require advice in relation to any matter raised in this article please contact a member of the team.

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