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  • Stuart McDonald

What is pre-charge bail?

A person arrested may be released on bail – the date of release being known as the “bail start date” - subject to an “applicable bail period”. Since 28th October 2022 the limit in “standard” cases is a maximum of 3 months. (Cases being conducted by the FCA, HMRC, the NCA and the SFO have different rules and time limits.)

The applicable bail period in a standard case can be extended by a “relevant officer” – an Inspector or above – to a maximum of six months from the bail start date. A Superintendent can further extend it to a maximum of nine months.

There are four statutory conditions to be met before that can be done:

  • The relevant officer must believe the suspect is guilty of the offence;

  • That the additional time is needed for a charging decision or investigation;

  • That the inquiry is being conducted “diligently and expeditiously”; and

  • The extension is “necessary and proportionate”.

It is possible that the investigating officers may still want more time; in such cases they may apply to a Magistrates’ Court for further extensions, up to a maximum of 24 months from the bail start date.

Statutory time limits in summary proceedings will of course continue to apply.

One way round this for the police is to “release (the suspect) under investigation”; in such cases the person is not on bail but the inquiry continues and, should they decide to take further action, the police may contact us and invite us to bring the client to the police station or they may issue a “requisition” to attend Court. It is important to remember that the law relating to intimidation of witnesses and perverting the course of public justice is unchanged.

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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