Bail law rushed through the Lords
Tuesday 12 July 2011
Emergency legislation to reverse a legal ruling that has thrown the police bail system into chaos completed its Lords stages in less than two hours and awaits Royal Assent later tonight to become law.
The Police (Detention and Bail) Bill, which was rushed through the Commons on Thursday, gained its Lords second reading with cross-party support and completed its remaining stages without debate.
The judgment, made by a district judge and backed by a High Court judicial review, means officers can no longer bail suspects for more than four days without either charging or releasing them.
Home Secretary Theresa May's emergency legislation, which has retrospective effect, restores the law to what Parliament and the courts had believed it had been for the past 25 years.
Home Office minister Baroness Browning, replying to the Lords debate, said: "The police are between a rock and a hard place at the moment in trying to manage this. They can only manage this in the short term.
"If we were to ask them to manage it throughout July and August and well into September (when Parliament returns), some of the cases that would be coming to the attention of your Lordships and also through the legal profession would be giving cause for concern."
She also promised a more thorough review of the bail legislation later this year.
There was strong backing for the Bill from former Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Condon and former West Midlands chief constable Lord Dear.
But QCs Lord Pannick (Ind) and Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD) questioned whether an appeal to the Supreme Court, scheduled for July 25, could not have been expedited.
Mrs May told MPs last week that the Bill would "restore vital powers to the police that they have operated under, without complaint from the courts, for the past 25 years".
The Home Secretary added: "I am not prepared to stand by and ask the police to fight crime with one arm tied behind their back." Labour, backing the Bill, said it would help protect victims and witnesses.
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