Home Office responds after calls for submission deadline to be pushed back

The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales Dame Vera Baird QC has welcomed the Government’s decision to extend the consultation on pre-charge bail.

The Home Office has announced the deadline for submission has been pushed back until the end of May. It comes after calls for the process to be prolonged because of COVID-19.

At the end of March Dame Vera wrote to the Home Secretary Priti Patel   highlighting that many of those preparing submissions have had to divert their focus because of the Coronavirus epidemic.

In the letter she said: “Many want to respond to your consultation on reforming pre-charge bail but are too distracted by setting up and overseeing contingency plans to be able to give the consultation the time and thought it deserves”.

She continued: “I am therefore hoping you might agree to extend the 29 April deadline by say another month, so everyone feels they have had an opportunity to feed in and give their views on the very important changes you are looking to make.”

Responding the Home Office has said interested parties now have until 29 May to submit their evidence.

Reacting to the announcement Dame Vera said: “I am pleased that the Home Office has realised that due to the unique situation Coronavirus has caused the most sensible option is to move the deadline so people have more time to prepare the submissions. It’s a very welcome move and I am grateful to the Home Secretary for this action.

“The changes to police bail are much needed and pressing but it is important professionals in the field are able to contribute fully. This extension will give them the time to manage the immediate demands created by the pandemic and complete their consultation evidence.

“Since the law changed in 2017 the use of pre-charge bail has declined massively which has resulted in some victims – especially those subject to Domestic Abuse – being left vulnerable. So it is vital that victims’ voices are heard on this important issue,” Dame Vera concluded.

The Home Office announcement follows that of the Ministry of Justice which has extended its own consultation on Disclosure and the CPIA Code of Practice which will now close on 22 July.

The Government launched a review of pre-charge bail legislation on 5 November 2019 saying its intention was to “put victims’ safety first and support police investigations”.

The response to the consultation will be published three months after the deadline.