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Why do the Police keep extending my Bail?

released under investigation

If you have been released on bail and have since been told that your bail has been extended, you may be wondering why this is happening. Has something changed since you were originally released? Has new evidence come to light? Has someone said something to change what the police think of you? All of these questions are very common. In this article, we will outline the reasons why the police could keep extending your bail and we will explain what is likely to happen next.

What is bail?

Bail is a legal process that allows someone to be released from police custody while they are awaiting charging, a hearing, or a trial. You might be given bail from the police station before or after you are charged (if, indeed, you are actually charged in the end), or you might be granted bail from the courts pending a trial or sentencing.

There are three types of bail you need to know about, along with one similar process that is often confused for bail:

  • Pre-charge bail – this allows people who are suspected of committing an offence to be released from police custody while they await a charging decision
  • Police bail – this allows those charged with an offence to be released while they await their first court hearing
  • Court bail – this allows those awaiting trial to be released until their first trial date
  • Released under investigation – this is similar to bail, but (as we will see below) there are no formal time limits applied to the release

Why does bail exist?

If someone has been arrested for a crime, it makes sense that the police would want to lock them up until they have proven it was or wasn’t them, right? While that might make some sense, bail actually exists for a number of compelling reasons – some of them quite academic and others quite practical.

In principle, bail exists because a person is presumed innocent until they are proven guilty. As a result, bail is often granted as a way to protect the rights of those charged or otherwise awaiting trial, ensuring they are not held in custody unnecessarily and can return home until their court date. This makes sure the police take away only the level of freedom that is necessary to complete the criminal investigation and prosecutorial process.

On a more practical level, it is also of benefit to the public purse for bail to exist. Housing suspected criminals or those awaiting trial would cost an excessive amount of money that is not justified by the risks mitigated by locking people up.

How long can you be kept on bail?

The bail period in England and Wales is actually quite flexible, and can be extended by the police or courts as circumstances dictate.

Pre-charge bail lasts for a maximum of 3 months initially. The police can extend bail 2 more times (for no more than 3 months at a time), meaning that bail could last up to 9 months from the original bail date. Exceptions exist if the crime is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). SFO cases are often incredibly complex financial matters and may take months or even years to investigate fully.

Court bail is slightly different because the time limit largely depends on when your hearing or trial date will be. While you won’t usually wait more than a few months at most for a trial, the limits can be extended if the hearing or trial dates get pushed back repeatedly.

If you are ‘released under investigation’, this is similar to bail in that it allows an accused person to remain out of custody while the police complete their investigation, but there is no time limit placed on it, and thus it cannot be extended. You could remain under investigation for months or even years if the case complexity warrants such a lengthy investigation.

My bail has been extended – what does this mean?

First things first: the fact that your bail has been extended is not automatically a bad thing. It does not mean that you are more likely to be charged or convicted, and it does not necessarily mean that something new has come up to incriminate you.

Simply, extended bail means that the police need more time to complete their investigation. This could happen for a number of reasons, with the most common being:

  • The police need more time to gather evidence, interview witnesses or suspects, or conduct their searches.
  • The case has, for whatever reason, become much more complex than originally anticipated and the police need more time to investigate new leads or pursue new lines of enquiry.
  • Police resources are stretched and more pressing cases (usually meaning more serious ones) are being investigated ahead of yours.

For these reasons, there is no point in assuming that bail being extended is, by default, a good or a bad thing.

If court bail is extended, it could be for as simple a reason as your court date being pushed back.

How many times can the police extend my bail?

With bail extensions generally being granted for up to 3 months each time, it is likely you will not have your bail extended more than a handful of times, depending on when you were initially granted bail.

With authorisation from the Magistrate, you could be bailed for up to 12 months. Remember, too, that if you are bailed until a hearing or court date, you will have to stay on bail longer if your case is pushed back or delayed for some reason.

Does having bail extended mean I’m guilty?

Formally and legally speaking, no. You are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial. Being put on bail or having your bail extended has no reflection whatsoever on your guilt or innocence in the eyes of the law. As mentioned, bail extension is much more likely to be a practical matter (delayed investigation, restricted resources, new evidence, etc.).

What does it mean having ‘conditions’ attached to bail?

Bail almost always comes with conditions. This is another thing that makes it different from being released under investigation, which does not come with conditions.

Typically, bail conditions include:

  • To refrain from contacting or going near any witnesses or co-defendants in the case.
  • To remain within a given area, such as your hometown or home county.
  • To notify the police when you move house, change your job, intend to travel abroad, and so on.
  • To apply for permission to go on holiday or travel for an extended period of time.
  • To stick to curfew hours set by the bail conditions (usually during the night, but sometimes during the day).
  • To report to a bail officer on a regular basis or when otherwise required.

Remember, bail conditions cannot limit your fundamental human rights, such as the freedom of religion. If you believe that your bail conditions infringe on your human rights in any way, you should contact a solicitor to ask for them to be reviewed and possibly amended.

Can I apply to get my bail conditions changed?

In short, yes. An experienced criminal defence solicitor will be familiar with the bail amendment process and will be able to make compelling written representations to the bailing officer or the court in an attempt to get your bail conditions changed.

Note that it is highly unlikely that you will get any bail conditions lifted if they are designed to protect you or others from harm, but you might if they are practical matters (such as not being able to leave the house at a certain time if your job requires you to do so).

Can I apply to get my bail conditions dropped altogether?

There is a slight possibility that a solicitor will be able to get your bail conditions dropped altogether. You must be aware, however, that this is highly dependent on you not posing any risk to yourself or to anyone else. The police or court must also be convinced that you do not present a risk of fleeing or committing further offences whilst awaiting your hearing or trial.

Usually, bail conditions are only dropped when your case is actually concluded (for example, through being dismissed due to lack of evidence or having been resolved through a trial).

Where to get more help with bail extensions?

If your bail has been extended and you are worried about how this might affect your case, get in touch with a criminal defence solicitor today. A good solicitor will be able to look into your case and try to get as full a picture as possible from the bailing and investigating officers, which may help in understanding whether your bail extension is a good or a bad thing. At Stuart Miller Solicitors, our team has decades worth of combined experience in managing bail applications, including applications to amend conditions, so you know you are in safe hands. Get in touch for a free, no obligation consultation today.

(This page was last updated on November 15, 2023.)


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