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Hundreds of police probes in Suffolk in the balance

PUBLISHED: 09:29 01 July 2011

Policing Minister Nick Herbert

Policing Minister Nick Herbert

Archant

HUNDREDS of Suffolk police cases could be in jeopardy amid concerns over a controversial court ruling relating to suspects who are on bail.

A spokesman for Suffolk Constabulary said it estimated there were about 700 people currently on police bail.

However, nationally politicians and courts are trying to address a ruling which means officers can no longer bail suspects for more than four days without charging or releasing them.

Murders, armed robberies, and sex crimes are among the offences people are on bail for in Suffolk at the moment.

Police have said the combined total of suspects for Suffolk and Norfolk is well in excess of 1,000.

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said: “In Norfolk and Suffolk we currently have around 1,500 people on police bail.

“We are in the process of notifying officers that the bail rules have changed and outlining what they should do when their bail returnees respond at their designated police station or police investigation centre.”

About one third of all detainees held in custody in Norfolk and Suffolk are released on pre-charge bail at some point during the investigation.

Yesterday (Thursday) the furore over the court ruling led Labour to claim the Home Office should have acted sooner to bring forward emergency legislation to reverse the legal ruling which overturns 25 years of police practice.

Policing Minister Nick Herbert said emergency legislation would be brought forward to overturn the ruling and enable officers to do their jobs without “one hand tied behind their back”, while the highest court in the land agreed to hear the case on July 25.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the Home Office was “clearly in chaos”.

“The Home Secretary is still failing to sort the problem,” she said.

“Shocking delays and Home Office incompetence are still putting investigations at risk, and jeopardising justice for victims.

“Ministers confirmed that the Home Office has known about this for over a month yet they still haven’t finished the emergency legislation, and the police still don’t know what they are supposed to do with suspects today.

“That means thousands of ongoing investigations are being jeopardised right now.”

The row started when district judge Jonathan Finestein, sitting at Salford Magistrates’ Court, refused a routine application from Greater Manchester Police 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, after which Home Office officials were told about the problems.

The Supreme Court will now hear the case on July 25.

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