There is a presumption that a suspect will be released under investigation if they have not been charged which means they have no obligation to return to the police station on a set date and have no conditions they must comply with. However, the police will still be investigating the offence or obtaining advice from the Crown Prosecution Service as to whether that person should be charged with an offence.
It may be that police initially release a suspect on police bail and there comes a time when they decide to release a suspect under investigation. Being released under investigations is not an indication as to whether someone will be charged with a criminal offence or not.
In April 2017 new legislation was brought in under the Police and Crime Act 2017. There had been much public discontent about suspects remaining on police bail with onerous conditions for a significant period of time before any final decision was taken in relation to their matter. The change in legislation imposed time limits on how long a person could remain on police bail. However, anyone released under investigation is not subject to the same time limits.
The current position is that if a person is placed on police bail, initially they are released for a period of no more than 28 days before they are asked to return to the police station.
That 28-day period of police bail can be extended by up to 3 months by the police provided certain conditions are met. (This is slightly different for any matter being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office).
If the police have not concluded their investigation by the end of that 3 months they will have to make an application to the Magistrates’ Court for any further extension of police bail. Obviously, anyone released under investigation is not subject to the same time limits. How long an investigation takes is a matter for the police. They are under a duty to conclude those investigations in a timely manner but often investigations can take a considerable amount of time depending on the complexity of the case.
If a decision is made to charge a person who has been released under investigation, the police will either arrest them for the purpose of charging them or usually a summons will be issued requiring them to attend the Magistrates’ Court. If a decision not to charge is made the suspect should be informed in writing. If a person is on police bail and a decision to charge them with a criminal offence has been made, they will be under an obligation to return to the police station where they can be formally charged.
What’s important to note is that a suspect does have rights. Firstly they or their solicitor have the right to make representations to the police or the Magistrates’ Court with regards to any decision to extend police bail. Even if a suspect has been released under investigation they can be proactive in enquiring of the police as to what is happening in the case and where appropriate, submitting representations to the Crown Prosecution Service to dissuade them from advising that they should be charged with a criminal offence.