Bail reforms 'are hurting victims', new report claims

Bail reforms ‘are hurting victims’: Police are releasing domestic abusers without bail in growing numbers, new report claims

  • Domestic abuse victims are left vulnerable as attackers are released without bail
  • New report said suspects are wrongly being Released Under Investigation (RUI) 
  • RUI suspects face no restrictions on who they can contact risking further abuse 

Domestic abuse victims have been left vulnerable as police release attackers without bail in increasing numbers, according to a new report.

Since 2017, most suspects have been Released Under Investigation (RUI), with bail used only if police consider it ‘necessary and proportionate’.

It comes after reforms designed to protect suspects were brought in – but the result has increased the risk of victims suffering further abuse and slowed investigations. 

Unlike those on bail, RUI suspects do not have to return to police stations and face no restrictions on who they can contact.

A new report said domestic abuse attackers are being released without bail in increasing numbers – leaving victims vulnerable to suffering further abuse (stock image)

Today’s report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said suspects are wrongly being released under RUI.

The report said victims of abuse and stalking are left ‘without reassurance and the protection’ of knowing their attackers are under bail conditions.

The Home Office said: ‘We will carefully consider the findings of this report.’ 

The report also found that suspects first thought serious enough to warrant bail conditions are moved to RUI after 28 days – with ‘no recorded rationale to explain why’.

Guidance from the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) states, when a suspect is arrested on domestic abuse charges ‘there should be documented decision-making’ on why the suspected attacker was or was not bailed.

One domestic abuse victim told the report her ex-partner ‘rang her doorbell repeatedly and called for her’ after being RUI having been arrested for common assault.

Only months later was the woman to be able to put a restraining order in place when the case went to court.

The report stated there was ‘nothing to stop the suspect from contacting his ex-partner’ in the intervening period.

Report claims suspects are wrongly being Released Under Investigation. RUI suspects face no restrictions on who they can contact risking further abuse (stock image)

The Inspectorate looked at 140 charges cases in 2019, and found RUI had been used in 62 of them ‘when our inspectors judged that bail with conditions should have been used to offer more protection for the victim’.

These cases included domestic abuse, sexual offences and offences against children.

The report added: ‘This is extremely worrying, especially for the victims in these cases, who had no bail conditions in place to keep them safe’.

The report said the Government left police ‘ill-prepared’ for the changes, with forces ‘not given adequate guidance’. This has led to ‘negative unintended consequences for victims as well as suspects’.

It also accuses the Home Office of putting ‘not enough thought [into] how the changes would affect victims’.

RUI also leads to delays in investigations, the report found, as these cases are often given lower priority than bail cases.

The reforms, as part of the Police and Crime Act 2017, were intended to prevent suspects from spending months on bail under onerous conditions.

They garnered much support in the wake of celebrities being wrongly accused of sex crimes.

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