Essex Police bails 50 suspects for a year or more – with three approaching two years on bail

Motorcyclist banned after speeding at 130mph on the A14

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EXCLUSIVE: Three suspects being investigated by Essex Police have been on bail for almost 23 months.

Figures obtained by the East Anglian Daily Times under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that two people have been on bail from the force for 692 days, while a third has been on bail for 691 days.

A snapshot taken by the force on December 22 last year showed there were 1,826 people on bail at that time, of which 1,135 had been on bail for longer than 28 days.

Fifty of those suspects had been on bail for longer than a year, while the top ten longest bailed suspects had been on bail for a combined total of 6,100 days – approximately 16 years and five months.

The figures, published by the force last week, come in the wake of proposals unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May last month to limit suspects to just 28 days on bail, with a court agreed extension allowed in exceptional circumstances.

A consultation on the plans, which would see suspects released without bail while investigations continue, runs until February 8.

Previous figures published by the Metropolitan Police showed it had bailed one suspect for three-and-a-half years.

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Although more limited in scope than a court-imposed bail, pre-charge bail can include conditions such as not to access the internet and not to leave the country, which can infringe on suspects’ civil liberties and feel particularly severe if they are then released without charge.

Nick Alston, Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “I find it surprising and worrying that some individuals have been held on police bail in our county for a long period of time, including a small number for almost two years.

“I have previously discussed police bail with Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh, and I know he shares these concerns. The Chief Constable has set up regular reviews of police bail practices in Essex.

“At the national level Theresa May is also reviewing police bail, and she made some proposals in December 2014. I am optimistic there will soon be some welcome change.”

What Essex Police say:

In a statement Essex Police said: “Essex Police is committed to bringing offenders to justice and doing their best for every victim of crime.

“The force is very aware of the impact being on bail has on suspects’ lives and it aims to complete its investigations as quickly as possible. Releasing people on bail allows officers to complete more thorough investigations while the person suspected of committing the crime is not continuously incarcerated.

“Essex Police arrests more than 37,000 people a year in response to the reporting of almost 100,000 crimes.

“In order to make decisions on whether to charge or release suspects, officers and staff must conduct countless enquiries including the examination of computers, mobile phones and other IT equipment, bank and medical records, the analysis of forensic samples, and locating and speaking to witnesses who may be anywhere in the country. They may also have to review hours of CCTV footage, seek advice from the Crown Prosecution Service and consider many other complex and time consuming tasks.

“Often officers will be reliant on the assistance of other agencies and organisations who will have their own priorities and constraints. The force is working with its own staff and partners to reduce, where possible, the time it takes to complete investigations.

“Essex Police is aware of the proposed plans for a 28-day limit on bail and a great deal of work is already being done to review and check cases and ensure we are working as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“In doing so the force has already reduced the number of people on bail by around 10 per cent in the last three and a half months.”

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