23 October 2019
Not reviewed after the date of publication
A detainee is released on police bail, to answer bail at a future date, at 2pm. He attends on the bail date at 10am and makes himself known to the front office staff. The officer dealing with the case is not available until 2pm and the detainee stays in the police station until 2pm. At what time does his custody clock restart - at 10am when he initially makes himself known or at 2pm when he was supposed to answer bail?
There is suggestion that in certain circumstances, suspects will be deemed to have answered their bail at the point they have attended at a police station, even if they are not dealt with at that time. However, it is our opinion that this is only where a suspect has answered their bail at the correct time but the relevant officers have not been ready to deal with them. This is because the delay is the fault of officers and the suspect should not be disadvantaged for complying with his legal obligations. (For further explanation regarding this, please see our FAQ – 'Custody clock – delays in putting person answering bail before custody officer').
In relation to your scenario, it is our opinion that the suspect would not have been deemed to have answered their bail / entered police custody until the relevant time of 2pm (at which point the detention clock would then re-commence). Therefore, they would have been entitled to leave at any point – as long as they returned for 2pm.
The suspect was not legally obligated to attend at the police station any earlier than 2pm and classing them as having answered their bail at an earlier stage when officers were unavailable, would potentially benefit the suspect. For example, allowing a suspect to run down the remaining time on their custody clock whilst they are waiting for the relevant officers to be ready – depriving the officers of the time they are entitled to for any outstanding dealings with the suspect.
If a suspect answered bail any earlier than the relevant 2pm and officers were ready to deal with them, there wouldn't be anything preventing them from doing so and at this point, it is likely that the clock would re-commence. However, to force officers to deal with a suspect any earlier than planned would be acting in contradiction of the purpose for which bail provisions were created – which is to enforce some form of deprivation on a suspect's liberty for the purpose of pursuing a criminal prosecution.
If a suspect has reason for needing to answer their bail at an earlier time, they should contact the custody sergeant to place a request to vary the time, relying on section 47(4A) of PACE. However, as you will be aware, revisions to bail are only likely to be agreed to in justifiable circumstances.
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