West Yorkshire PCC’s response to HMICFRS report on pre-charge bail and released under investigation
9th December 2020
PCC Mark Burns-Williamson, who is also Chair of the West Yorkshire Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB), that brings together criminal justice partners including the Courts, CPS, Prison Service, Probation, Victims and Witnesses service amongst others, said that he would be discussing the findings of the report at their next meeting.
“This report contains many findings and recommendations which are sadly unsurprising and indeed worrying following the Government changes brought in a few years ago” Mr Burns-Williamson said.
“The fact that the changes to bail legislation have led to potentially increased risk to victims who feel it doesn’t protect them enough was predictable and I feel these recommendations need to be acted upon” he said.
“The changes may have had unintended consequences for victims, but they are still very apparent, and Releasing Under investigation (RUI) leaves too many victims and witnesses without the reassurance and protection that bail conditions better provide and this needs remedying.
“Of particular concern is the fact that in many cases of domestic abuse and stalking, suspects are RUI instead of being bailed with appropriate conditions, especially because of the high harm and risk associated with these types of crime.
“Supporting victims and witnesses is a key priority for me as PCC and I think as this report shows, they have been, and continue to be adversely impacted by these changes. Last February I launched the first ever Victims Strategy for West Yorkshire, ‘Supporting People Harmed by Crime’.
“This helps to ensure that West Yorkshire is at the table in all the key national discussions, making victims voices heard. This includes frequent contact with the Victims Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, who fully recognises our support for the victim focussed approach evident in West Yorkshire.
“We need to continue with that approach and I will be meeting with partners at the LCJB to look at what we can do collectively with this report, and will also be speaking with the Chief Constable to ensure everything that can be done to help mitigate the impact to victims are being addressed.
“We also need to ensure that wherever possible suspects aren’t facing such long delays under this legislation before cases are dealt with, and with a goal of ensuring everyone involved in such cases are being given updates as to their case’s progress.
“I am supporting the call for the Home Office to adopt the report’s recommendations, including working with the police and College of Policing to now review the legislation for bail and RUI to help address these issues. This will help victims and witnesses feel more assured when reporting and have more trust in the process that they will be protected and supported as a result.
“I broadly agree with the recommendations and think there needs to be a model where all forces are following the same processes, and that victims and witnesses remain at the heart of everything we do.”