People arrested on suspicion of a criminal offence can be released on police bail to allow time for the police to gather further evidence.
In the past, there was no set time for a person to remain on bail and it was the responsibility of the investigating officer to progress the investigation as quickly as possible.
This led to people who were suspected of committing a crime, but not found guilty, being under investigation for a long period of time in some cases.
There were some high-profile cases in the media, where well-known celebrities and public figures were on bail, sometimes for two years, where their lives were put on hold and the cloud of suspicion remained over them.
This was viewed as an injustice and of course, ordinary people suffered the same problem.
On 3rd April 2018, the Government introduced a new pre-charge bail limit of 28 days as part of the Policing and Crime Act, in the interests of fairness.
This is a relatively short amount of time for the police to make all reasonable enquiries and be in a position to either release someone without charge, or to charge them with an offence.
In cases where more time is required, one extension of up to 3 months can be authorised by a senior police officer at superintendent level or above.
In exceptional circumstances, where the police need to keep someone on bail for longer, they will have to apply to a magistrate for further bail.
In addition, bail is only used when it is necessary and proportionate; where it is not, then people will be released without bail.
Where this happens, the investigation can continue. If fresh evidence is gathered which requires a further interview, the suspect is invited to attend a police station. If they fail to do this, then they can be arrested in relation to the new evidence.
If an interview is not required, then a summons for them to attend court is sent to them.
When the new legislation came into effect, there was a rapid reduction in the number of people being bailed, where they were simply released under investigation, with no protective measures for the victim.
Bail does act as a protective measure for victims, where conditions can be attached to it, for example, not to make any contact with the victim or not to go near their home or place of work. A breach of bail can lead to an arrest and in some cases, a person being remanded into custody where the risk to the victim is considered high.
The use of conditional bail is particularly necessary in domestic cases or offences against vulnerable people.
The changes to legislation caused an amount of confusion and less than a year on, it was universally recognised that the police had shifted too much the other way and bail was seldom used.
There were many domestic cases where the police used Domestic Violence Protection Orders to protect victims where bail should have been used.
The police, in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service, have consulted and bail is now routinely used when needed, affording victims better protection from suspected offenders.
The problem lied with the interpretation of the new legislation and victims are now better protected and the police have a better ability to bring people to justice who threaten or intimidate victims.