MORE than half the suspects held on police bail for more than a year were never charged, figures obtained by the Oxford Mail show.
Thames Valley Police figures show 6,639 suspects remained on police bail while being investigated in Oxfordshire in the past two years.
Of that number, 37 were kept on bail for more than a year – and 22 of them were eventually released without charge.
There is no legal time limit on how long people can be held on bail.
Defence lawyer Stuart Matthews, of Oxford firm Reeds, said: “They have their lives put on hold for over 12 months while police investigate an allegation.
“How can that be right? The impact on those people is just extraordinary.
“Imagine how you would feel having to wait for a police decision that could impact the rest of your life.”
He said he was concerned people were being arrested too early in investigationsand suspects were not given enough information to challenge bail conditions, and he added: “There certainly should be a limit to how long somebody can be kept on police bail.”
One client was on bail for more than a year while tests were done on their computer and a fraud suspect was on bail for more than three years, he said.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show those bailed for more than a year include people arrested on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children, stealing from their employer, and fraud.
Michelle X – who uses cannabis to fight pain from multiple sclerosis – was kept on court bail for more than six months after being charged with cannabis cultivation last year. The case finished when – while on court bail – she was issued with a caution by police.
But she said being on bail meant she was unable to visit her dad in Spain after her mum had passed away the year before.
The Abingdon resident, 47, said: “It was a very traumatic time and it does not help the grieving if you have not got family around.”
She backed a bail time limit, adding: “If they haven’t got the evidence to do something within six weeks they are just wasting their own time.”
Supt Rory Freeman, force head of criminal justice said: “In all cases we aim to either charge a suspect or release a suspect with no further action as soon as possible, but our overwhelming priority is to conduct a thorough investigation.
“Often cases are complex and can require detailed forensic work, reviewing CCTV, interrogation of IT equipment, multiple witnesses, victims and suspects.”
TOTALS FOR PAST TWO YEARS
TIME suspects spent on bail in Oxfordshire between May 2012 and April 2014.
- 0 to 3 months – 5,311
- 3 to 6 Months – 990
- 6 to 12 Months – 301
- More than a year – 37 (22 never charged)
THINNER BLUE LINE
- THE number of police officers working in Oxfordshire has fallen over the past two years.
But Thames Valley Police (TVP) said it had maintained the number of “frontline” officers.
TVP figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show there were 1,467 officers and Pcsos in the county on March 31, 2012. By March 31, 2014, there were 1,443 – down 1.6 per cent.
- The force has had to save £55m from their £386m annual budget due to Government cuts.
Inspectors went from 69 to 65 in the period and sergeants from 204 to 193, while constables rose from 991 to 995.
- The force said the total figures include officers and staff based at their Kidlington base that are not on the frontline.
- They could not yesterday provide the numbers of “frontline” police in the figures.
- Head of resilience, Ch Supt Richard Humphrey, said the force remained “absolutely committed to protecting the frontline”.
- Latest figures show recorded crime is at its lowest in Oxfordshire for 15 years.
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