There have been several high-profile changes to how the police are now conducting investigations into criminal cases and how they are dealing with suspects. With an ever increasing demand on limited financial resources, the police have not been immune from budget cuts. With this in mind, there has been an increase in voluntary police interviews.
However, there have also been some high-profile changes to how even those suspects who have been arrested and are now being dealt with. To understand the significance of these changes, it is important to firstly understand how things have worked up to now. Formerly, if a suspect was arrested, there were generally three main options as to what might occur after a person had been questioned and interviewed on tape by the police. They were:
- The Suspect would be charged or cautioned with an offence and, if charged, they would be either released to attend court at a specified date in the future or remanded in custody overnight until the following court day when they would appear before the court at that time;
- The Suspect would be released having been told that the “Investigation” had been concluded and that there would be “no further action”, thereby meaning that the case had been concluded; or
- The Suspect would be released on Police Bail, under what was known as s.47(3)b Bail—this would mean that with or without conditions, the Suspect would be required to return to the Police Station at an appointed date and time, this date could be changed, extended and could mean that case would drag on for many months and in some cases for years.
The third option was the most common—simply because the nature of most police investigations involves the gathering, processing and considering of evidence obtained after a suspect has been formally questioned. To do this, the police would bail them before a decision was made on whether the case would be sent to court on not.
The change in the law and recent procedure effects the ability of the police to release someone on police bail. There is now a statutory maximum, save for certain cases, of up to 28 days. After that period has elapsed, unless the Bail period has been lawfully extended, it is no longer possible to keep someone on bail.
In practice, what the Police are now doing to get around this change in the law is simply releasing a Suspect but telling them that they still “Under Investigation” but “not on bail”. This means that the Suspect has no idea if or when the case will be concluded or when their ordeal may be over.
If you or someone you know has been released in these circumstances, you will have been given a Notice which tells them things which will be worrying and maybe unsettling—things like:
- “inappropriate contact with anyone linked to your case, either directly or indirectly, through a third party or social media, may constitute a criminal offence”
- The notice will mention serious criminal offences of Witness Intimidation and tell you that you could face “up to 5 years in prison” or perverting the course of justice, in which case you could face up to “life imprisonment”!
A person “Under Investigation” won’t know when the case may have been concluded and perhaps when it is safe to speak with witnesses or people who may be concerned with the case. Given that some investigations can go on for months, sometimes longer, this is an entirely unsatisfactory state of affairs.
You will not receive regular updates from the Police. It is rare that they will communicate with you at all.
It is vitally important that you are aware of your rights and the procedures so that effective communication does take place and you know who you can speak with and who you cannot, so that you know when the case has been concluded. If you don’t know these things, you may end up committing a serious criminal offence.
We can help you find out what is going on with your case. With our specialist team of criminal defence solicitors who regularly deal with these types of matters, we are well equipped to make the enquires on your behalf and advise you on your rights and the law.
Contact us today for a competitive estimate of our costs and also to discuss your case and help guide you through this difficult time.