Supreme Court dismisses bail bid

The highest court in the land has dismissed a bid to suspend a controversial legal ruling on police bail which hampers investigations and overturns 25 years of police practice.





Three Supreme Court justices dismissed the "unusual" application from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to stay the judgment pending a full appeal at the same court on July 25, a court spokesman said.



The initial ruling, made by a district judge and backed by a judicial review at the High Court, means officers can no longer bail suspects for more than four days without either charging or releasing them.







A Supreme Court spokesman said: "On July 1, the appellants, Greater Manchester Police, filed an application inviting the Supreme Court to stay the effect of the High Court's judgment.



"This application is unusual and it is questionable whether it would be open to the court to grant this relief.



"In any event, however, the judgment was given on May 19 and an application for permission to appeal was made on June 21.



"The Government has announced its intention to introduce emergency legislation this Thursday, July 7.



"In these circumstances, the court has decided that the application should be dismissed."



Emergency laws will be rushed through the Commons on Thursday and the Lords next week to reverse the decision amid fears the full appeal to the Supreme Court would take too long, the Government has said.



The Supreme Court's decision comes as Home Secretary Theresa May prepares to give evidence on the issue to the Commons home affairs select committee.







It is the latest stage of the row which led to shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper claiming that police were failing to arrest domestic violence suspects who breached bail conditions, leaving alleged victims vulnerable.



The dispute started when district judge Jonathan Finestein, sitting at Salford Magistrates' Court, refused a routine application from GMP for a warrant of further detention of murder suspect Paul Hookway on April 5.



High Court judge Mr Justice McCombe confirmed the ruling in a judicial review on May 19, which meant time spent on police bail counted towards the maximum 96-hour limit of pre-charge detention.



For the last 25 years, police and the courts have only counted the time spent being questioned or in police custody towards the limit, with many suspects being released on bail for months before being called back for further interviews.



The Home Office has been criticised for not acting sooner to reverse the ruling.



Policing minister Nick Herbert admitted officials were told of the oral judgment in May, but its full impact only became clear when the written judgment was handed down on June 17 and ministers were alerted on June 24.



Sir Norman Bettison, chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, highlighted the problems the ruling caused his officers last week, saying they were left "running round like headless chickens ... wondering what this means to the nature of justice".



About 85,200 people are on bail in England and Wales at any one time and the common practice in most major inquiries of releasing suspects on bail and calling them back for questioning weeks later is "pretty much a dead duck" following the ruling, police chiefs said.











Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "We need to know urgently whether Government delays have contributed to the Supreme Court decision not to suspend the judgment on police bail.

"The Attorney General should have stepped in to apply for a stay of judgment weeks ago."



Calling for an urgent inquiry into how the Home Office created "this operational disaster", she said: "The Home Office - who knew about this case over a month ago - should have got emergency legislation ready weeks ago too. The Home Secretary should have got a grip on this."









The Police (Detention and Bail) Bill, which is being rushed through all its Commons stages on Thursday, should be law by next Tuesday night, the Government's chief whip in the Lords told peers today.



Baroness Anelay of St Johns said the Lords stages of the Bill would be taken on Tuesday, with the aim of gaining Royal Assent that evening. Labour has offered its support to ensure the legislation becomes law.



Lady Anelay, a Tory, said the two-clause Bill would "restore the law on the calculation of the time spent on police detention to what it was commonly understood to be, prior to the High Court judgment of June 17".







Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "We need to know urgently whether Government delays have contributed to the Supreme Court decision not to suspend the judgment on police bail.



"The Attorney General should have stepped in to apply for a stay of judgment weeks ago."



Calling for an urgent inquiry into how the Home Office created "this operational disaster", she said: "The Home Office - who knew about this case over a month ago - should have got emergency legislation ready weeks ago too. The Home Secretary should have got a grip on this."

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