Former MPS Commissioner calls for ‘urgent’ reform of police bail laws

Lord Blair, the former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service, has called for “urgent” changes to police bail laws to protect victims of domestic abuse, stalking and sex offences.

Oct 21, 2019
By Tony Thompson
Lord Blair

In a letter published in The Times today (October 21), Lord Blair described the bail reforms introduced in 2017 that restricted the maximum duration of bail to 28 days as a case of “the road to Hell being paved with good intentions”.

He wrote: “Many of the 600,000 cases of domestic violence annually reported to the police are complex and incapable of resolution within that time limit, including, for instance, time delays about forensic evidence, let alone sheer caseloads for investigators. Without formal bail, conditions on suspects, such as not contacting the alleged victim, cannot be enforced.

“All the main police staff associations protested about a blanket restriction on the length of police bail in all forms of crime and suggested that some offences should provide for longer periods to be available without major legal hurdles, perhaps up to 56 days. Many speakers in the House of Lords protested, including myself.

“Subsequently, I was a member of the pre-legislative joint committee of both Houses of Parliament on the Domestic Abuse Bill earlier this year. Our final report recommended immediate reconsideration of the existing legislation, certainly in the cases of domestic abuse, stalking and some sexual offences.”

Noting that the police were only able to act within the law as it stands, he added: “Urgent revision of this law is now needed, after which the police service will then be better able to protect victims of such really unpleasant personal crimes of violence.”

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