Police (Detention and Bail) Bill passed

12 July 2011

The Police (Detention and Bail) Bill completed all its stages in the House of Lords on Tuesday 12 July. The Bill reverses a recent High Court decision on the maximum period of detention of a suspect on bail

The Bill will receive Royal Assent later this evening.

Members of the Lords who took part in the debate included barristers Lord Pannick and Lord Thomas of Gresford; and Lord Condon, a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

The Bill was the subject of a Lords Constitution Committee Report published on Thursday 7 July. The report said that Parliament is being asked to legislate in "highly unusual circumstances". While there is an "understandable rush" to rectify an urgent and serious problem, Parliament must consider the implications fully.

Further information

The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) sets out the length of time that a suspect can be detained in police custody after arrest before being charged or released (with or without bail).

A suspect can be detained for an initial period of up to 24 hours starting from the 'relevant time' - usually the time of arrival at a police station following arrest. This period can be extended for up to a further 12 hours on the authority of a police officer of the rank of superintendent or above, and subsequent court applications may enable the detention period to be extended to a maximum of 96 hours.

It had previously been assumed that releasing a suspect on bail effectively paused the 'detention clock', so that when the suspect answered police bail and was re-detained, the clock could then be restarted, even if the re-detention was at a point later than 96 hours after the 'relevant time'.

However, a recent High Court decision – the Hookway case – ruled that this was not the case and that the maximum 96-hour period specified in the Act runs from the relevant time and cannot be suspended and re-started.

The Bill would reverse the effect of this High Court decision.

The Police (Detention and Bail) Bill started and completed its Commons stages on Thursday 7 July. It had its first reading in the House of Lords also on 7 July.

When a Bill has completed all its parliamentary stages in both Houses, it must have Royal Assent before it can become an Act of Parliament (law).

Image: iStockphoto 

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