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Been Released on Bail? What happens next?

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If you have been released on bail, then you probably have a lot of questions about what happens next. Whatever the circumstances of your case, remember that bail is not a guarantee that you will be found innocent or that your charges will be dropped – it is simply an opportunity for you to remain out of police custody while your case is pending. If you do not comply with the conditions of your bail, you may be taken into custody again. In this article, we provide an overview of the bail process and answer some of the most common questions we receive from people after they have been released from custody.

What does being released on bail mean?

Bail allows people suspected of a crime to stay out of police custody or prison while they wait for a charging decision (pre-charge bail), or a particular day in court (police bail or court bail, depending on who granted the bail application).

Bail is given when there is not enough proof the person committed the offence in the first instance (so that the police can charge you at the end of the initial detention period), or if the bail conditions seem fair and flight risk (the likelihood you’ll run away instead of going to your hearings) is low.

It is worth noting that bail does not suggest any guilt or innocence. Bail only implies that the judge (or the officer, if given bail by the station) believes you will attend all future hearings related to your case and are not an immediate danger to yourself or others.

How long can you be on bail for?

How long you can be on bail for depends on the type of bail you were given, the crime for which you are charged, and a few other circumstantial factors.

Initially, you will be on bail for 3 months, by an officer. If an Inspector thinks there is a compelling reason (case complexity, difficulties contacting witnesses, lack of evidence, etc.), they can grant bail for up to 6 months. This time frame is intended to give investigating officers the opportunity to conclude their investigations and come to a decision on whether to charge you.

If the case is sufficiently complex, bail can be extended from 6 to 9 months by a Superintendent. Any extensions after this require authorisation from a Magistrate.

How long can you be on bail for without being charged?

In general, the police will make a charging decision within the first 3 months of you being released on bail. However, if the case is particularly complex, they may make a charging decision at a later date if a bail extension has been granted. For summary only offences that are tried in the Magistrate’s Court, the police must lodge their charging papers within six months of the date of the alleged offence, else the case will be dismissed.

How long do bail conditions last in the UK?

When you are granted bail in the UK, your release is usually subject to certain conditions. These conditions might include:

  • having to remain at a particular address and inform the police if you change address at any point
  • being forbidden to contact an individual who may be involved in the crime itself or in the criminal process that has followed (such as a witness)
  • being required to handover your passport so that you cannot travel outside of the UK while on bail
  • having to report to the police station predetermined times, which could be once a week or at another interval depending on the level of supervision the bailing officer thinks is appropriate

The bail conditions will last for as long as your bail does unless you are successful in your application to have bail conditions amended or removed.

What happens when you return to the police station for bail?

If you are out on bail, there are several reasons why the police may call you back to the station. These include:

  • the police wanting to ask you further questions about your alleged involvement in the crime
  • a charging decision having been made, which you will be informed about in person
  • the case being dismissed or dropped, and the police wanting to share an explanation as to why this is the case
  • you being suspected of breaching your bail conditions (meaning you could simply be asked questions, or you might be rearrested and held in custody to await your charge or court hearing)

Exactly what will happen when you attend the police station, therefore, is highly dependent on the reason for you being called back. If you have been asked to return, seek advice from a criminal defence solicitor as soon as possible.

Do police check bail addresses?

It is possible that the police will check your bail address, yes.

When you are released from custody, the police will check that the address you’ve given can be verified. They could ask for a bank statement or other proof of address, for example. They may also need to get written permission from the person you are staying with if it is not your ordinary home address.

If the police cannot confirm your place of residence, they may not grant bail, or they might impose stricter conditions to ensure that you remain in contact with them. Failure to comply with these conditions could lead to a breach of bail and possible arrest.

It is relatively unlikely that the police will check on your house to ensure that you are staying there without reason, but they are almost certain to do so if there are complaints about you or they suspect you might be in breach of bail conditions.

What does it mean to be released without charge?

Being released without charge means that the police have decided not to bring charges against you. This could be because there is insufficient evidence, or it could be for other reasons such as a lack of public interest in prosecuting the case.

If you are released without charge, then your bail will come to an end and all conditions associated with it will cease to apply.

How long can you be released under investigation?

Unlike bail, there is no formal time limit for those released under investigation. The investigation could go on for weeks or even months without you being charged or hearing anything back about case progress. How long you can be under investigation by police in the UK, therefore, is a difficult question to answer.

Can you travel abroad while on bail in the UK?

The short answer is: potentially.

You can go on holiday while out on bail only if you have been released without any travel restrictions or if your potential holiday has been approved by the bail officer beforehand. The reason for this is because bail officers need to confirm that you are not a flight risk (meaning there’s no or a negligible chance of you leaving and not attending court hearings).

Depending on the case, the bail officer may also place certain conditions on your travel such as how long you’re allowed to be gone for, which countries you’re able to visit, who you can travel with, and how often you have to report back with your location, etc.

How long can you be remanded in custody in the UK?

Initially, you can be held in police custody for up to 24 hours or until the police make a release or charging decision, whichever comes first. In exceptional circumstances, like particularly violent ones, the police may be able to hold you for up to 96 hours.

When you are remanded in custody in the UK, this means that you are sent to prison until your trial date. Not everyone will be remanded in custody; it depends heavily on the nature of the crime of which you are accused as well as the risks you pose to yourself and others as a potential offender.

The most common reasons why you would be remanded in custody until your trial include:

  • being a repeat offender or having cautions for similar behaviour in the past
  • being assessed as someone likely to flee the country or abscond from court
  • being suspected of involvement in other criminal activities, or being likely to commit an offence while out on bail
  • being someone with repeat bail breaches in the past, suggesting you cannot be trusted with the relative freedom of bail

Where to get more help after being released on bail?

If you have been released on bail, it is vital you seek legal advice as soon as possible. Remember that violating the conditions of your bail may lead to you being taken back into police custody. The team at Stuart Miller Solicitors are experienced in dealing with bail cases, including bail amendments and retractions, and are here to help every step of the way. Contact us today for a free consultation about your case.

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


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