Belfast Telegraph

Bailed suspects 'in legal limbo'

The time limit for police bail should be restricted to four weeks to prevent people "languishing in a form of legal limbo", according to a campaign backed by a former Home Office minister.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, signatories including former Conservative police minister Damian Green called for a 28-day cap to the time suspects could be left on pre-charge bail while police carry out more inquiries.

It comes after figures released in October showed more than 70,000 people in the UK were on bail, with around 5,400 for more than six months.

The letter, also undersigned by Frances Crook, CEO of the Howard League of Penal Reform, and Lord Paddick, a former senior officer at Scotland Yard, joined calls for a time limit after high-profile cases against stars such as Paul Gambaccini, Jim Davidson and Freddie Starr went no further following months of investigation.

It said: "Pre-charge bail was introduced 30 years ago to limit the freedom of individuals while police conducted further investigations. No restriction was put on the amount of time police could hold someone on pre-charge bail.

"This has led to a perversion of justice where, today, more than 70,000 people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are languishing in a form of legal limbo.

"Innocent people have been left on bail for years before their cases are dropped or thrown out of court. Their careers are put on hold, and the mental anguish of not knowing what will happen is in itself a form of punishment without trial. There is not right of appeal.

"These individuals are innocent until proved guilty, but justice delayed in justice denied."

The campaigners also called for bail to be reviewed by a judge rather than police.

In October, following the release of figures under Freedom of Information to BBC 5 Live, the Home Secretary Theresa May said she would look at introducing a statutory time limit.

Other campaigners, including Liberty, have called for it to be restricted to six months.

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