Pre-charge Bail

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 3rd February 2015.

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Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour, Huddersfield 11:30 am, 3rd February 2015

What recent estimate he has made of the number of people on bail without charge.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I am lucky enough to be the police Minister in the Home Office as well as a Justice Minister, and this question falls under both portfolios. We do not hold that data centrally, but we are now gathering them because of the review of pre-charge bail announced by the Home Secretary.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour, Huddersfield

Some of the answers I am getting from the Department do not include National Crime Agency figures. That is an omission. Does the Minister agree that for someone to be arrested and bailed without charge for months and months, such that their careers and lives are destroyed, goes against all the principles of British justice? Will he look at what Operation Pallial and the National Crime Agency are up to and at whether they are leaking private information to the media?

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

If there is any evidence of leaking to the media, I am sure the hon. Gentleman will pass it to me in due course. I agree that we need to make sure that bail is used correctly, and that is exactly why the Home Secretary announced a consultation, which is ongoing. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will give evidence to it so that we can get it right. People should not be on bail for any longer than they need to be.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

Will my right hon. Friend advise people who are in that position that bail is voluntary, so they do not have to accept it? If they do not accept bail, the police will either have to charge or release them.

Photo of Mike Penning Mike Penning The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but someone who is arrested and offered bail when an investigation is ongoing faces a really difficult decision. We have indicated that the period should be no more than 28 days, and the consultation is looking at whether that is viable. The period may need to be longer in exceptional circumstances, particularly when the police are looking at encrypted hard drives, but at the end of the day it is for the individual and the police to decide.