I say at the outset that I have sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s position. We are conscious of the unintended consequence of the well-intentioned reforms to pre-charge bail in 2017. We are committed to ensuring that the police have the powers they need to protect the public, and that our criminal justice system has at its heart the welfare and best interests of victims.
Over the past few years, crime has become more complex, and the police are dealing with more digital evidence and new challenges. The Policing and Crime Act 2017 introduced a number of reforms to pre-charge bail to address legitimate concerns that suspects were spending too long under restrictive conditions, with no oversight. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman gave an example of that. The 2017 reforms allowed individuals to be released under investigation and introduced a presumption in favour of release without bail, unless its use was considered necessary and proportionate. They limited the initial imposition of pre-charge bail to 28 days. I must emphasise that the police can still use pre-charge bail when it is necessary and proportionate to do so, and they have our full support in that.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council has issued guidance highlighting that police should use pre-charge bail when there are risks to victims and witnesses, and the need to regularly review cases where such suspects are released under investigation.