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Pre-charge bail and Released Under Investigation (RUI)

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The systems of pre-charge bail and release under investigation (RUI) underwent significant changes in 2022 when Schedule 4 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 came into effect.

Here, we provide RUI and pre-charge bail guidance, discuss what the laws on pre-charge bail and RUI are in the UK, what pre-charge bail conditions involve and why changes were made to the process of being released on pre-charge bail and released under investigation. 

Click here to see the full guidance.

While we hope this information is useful, please note, it should not be taken as legal advice. If you need legal support with RUI and pre-charge bail legislation, then please get in touch and our team can advise you.

What are the laws on pre-charge bail and RUI?

When someone is arrested, the police will have a number of options at their disposal. These include releasing them on pre-charge bail or releasing them under investigation. If either of the actions are taken, it means that the police are not ready to make an immediate charging decision, but the investigation remains active.

What is pre-charge bail?

If someone is released on pre-charge bail (also simply referred to as being released on bail), this means that the police will be continuing their investigation to gather more evidence before they are able to make a final charging decision. When on pre-charge conditional bail, a suspect will be subject to various conditions.

What is released under investigation (RUI)?

Being released under investigation (also referred to as released without bail) is separate to pre-charge bail. If someone is released under investigation, they are not subject to police bail, with there being no requirements for them to attend the police station again.

In contrast to pre-charge conditional bail, there is no set time for a decision to be made while someone is RUI. This means that an alleged offender could be left waiting for an indefinite amount of time for a decision to be made by the police.

How long can you be on pre-charge bail?

Pre-charge bail can be granted for up to three months in standard cases. However, if a case involves an investigation by the FCA, SFO, NCA or HMRC, the bail period that applies will be different, with a bail officer being able to authorise six months bail instead of three.

Can pre-charge bail extensions take place?

The pre-charge conditional bail period is somewhat flexible. Following the initial bail period, the police can extend bail two more times (for no more than three months at a time). This means that pre-charge conditional bail can last up to nine months from the original bail date.

If the police need a pre-charge bail extension beyond this nine month period, they will need authorisation from a Magistrate. A Magistrate can refuse to extend the pre-charge bail period any further.

What pre-charge bail conditions exist?

Pre-charge bail typically comes with various conditions, as opposed to being released under investigation.

Common pre-charge bail conditions include:

  • Having no contact with witnesses or co-defendants
  • Having to report to a bail officer
  • Notifying the police on your movements (such as moving house, travelling abroad)
  • Remaining in a certain area
  • Having curfew hours

The police have the power of arrest if you are found to be guilty of breaking pre-charge bail conditions.

What happens after pre-charge bail?

Once the initial time limit for pre-charge conditional bail has expired, the police will have to decide whether to apply for an extension (if they are able to do so), or to make a charging decision.

After pre-charge bail has expired, the pre-charge bail conditions you were subject to will no longer be in effect. Unless you have been charged, you will not attend any further court hearings related to your case.

Does pre-charge bail mean you will be charged?

Pre-charge conditional bail does not necessarily mean that you will be charged with an offence. It simply means that the police are still investigating the case, are gathering more evidence, or are awaiting guidance from the CPS before they make a decision.

Why were RUI and pre-charge bail changes introduced?

The Policing and Crime Act 2017 brought in a number of pre-charge bail changes and RUI changes which remain in effect today. This included a ‘presumption’ against using pre-charge bail unless necessary and proportionate.

After these RUI and pre-charge bail changes came into effect, the use of pre-charge bail during criminal investigations fell sharply. This was mirrored by an increase in the number of people who were RUI. This raised concerns that bail was not being used when appropriate and that there would be an increase in the length of cases where bail was not used.

In response to these concerns, the government held a public consultation in February 2020, which sought out views on changing the presumption against the use of bail, as well as amending the statutory framework. The respondents to the consultation strongly agreed with the proposals.

What changes were made to pre-charge bail and RUI?

The Law on pre-charge bail encourages the police to use pre-charge bail in “every case where it is necessary and appropriate” as opposed to RUI. This is achieved by removing the perceived presumption against using pre-charge bail.

Any pre-bail decisions will also be made with specific references to safeguard the victim of a crime and any further witnesses. This is particularly where the victim and witnesses are considered to be vulnerable.

The Government also stated an additional aim of The Act was the introduction of new pre-charge bail time periods for suspects which are more balanced and proportionate to the crime. Victims will therefore be better protected through a new requirement to seek the views of victims on pre-charge bail conditions.

The new provisions mean that standard cases, which have an initial bail period of three months, can be subject to two further extensions by the police before coming before a magistrates’ court. The first extension can be from three months to six months from the bail start date and the second extensions being from six months to nine months from the bail start date.

Standard cases which are designated as exceptionally complex (which necessarily will have already been subject to the second extension above), or non-standard cases can be extended to up to 12 months from the bail start date before coming before a magistrates’ court.

Furthermore, the Act introduced a new three hour pause on the detention clock so any arrests for pre-charge bail breaches, or ‘failing to answer’ bail do not have a negative effect on the overall custody clock for the original offence.

The reforms are known as ‘Kay’s Law’. This is in memory of Kay Richardson, who lost her life at her ex-partner’s hands while he was released under investigation rather than on bail.

Part 1 of Schedule 4

Part 1 of Schedule 4 widens the net of officers who are able to grant bail. Under S30A (release of a person arrested elsewhere than at a police station), a ‘custody officer’ is able to grant bail. This was amended from ‘a police officer of the rank of inspector or above’.

The new law removes the presumption against the use of pre-charge bail to establish a neutral position within the legislation.

Part 2 of Schedule 4

Part 2 of Schedule 4 creates a set of risk factors which need to be taken into account when considering whether pre-charge bail could be granted.

When determining whether releasing a person on bail is necessary and proportionate, the constable must take the following into consideration:

  1. The need to secure that the person surrenders to custody
  2. The need to prevent offending by the person
  3. The need to safeguard victims of crime and witnesses, taking into account any vulnerabilities of any alleged victim of, or alleged witness to, the offence for which the person was arrested where these vulnerabilities have been identified by the constable
  4. The need to safeguard the person, taking into account any vulnerabilities of the person where these vulnerabilities have been identified by the constable, and
  5. The need to manage risks to the public.

Part 3 of Schedule 4

This established a new duty of police to seek the views of victims on pre-charge bail conditions which relate to their safeguarding.

If it is reasonably practicable to do so, the investigating officer must seek the views of the alleged victim (if any) of the relevant offence on:

  1. Whether any of the conditions that are relevant conditions should be varied under subsection (1), and
  2. If so, what variations should be made to those conditions.

Investigating officers will also have a duty to seek views of alleged victims on conditions of pre-charge bail. The officer, if it is reasonably practicable, must seek the views of the alleged victim (if any) on –

  1. Whether relevant conditions should be imposed on the person’s bail, and
  2. If so, what relevant conditions should be imposed.

Part 4 of Schedule 4

Generally, the bail time limit was extended. Standard cases can be subject to two further extensions (from 3 to 6 months by an inspector, from 6 to 9 months by a superintendent).

  • In standard cases which are designated as exceptionally complex (i.e. they will have already been subject to the second extension above), or in non-standard cases, bail can be extended by up to 12 months from the bail start date before coming before a Magistrates’ court.

Part 5 of Schedule 4

Previously, arrests for a breach of bail conditions or failing to answer bail would wind down the time on the PACE clock. There is now a three-hour pause, which means arrests for breach of bail conditions/failing to answer bail do not affect the original clock.

What should I do if I’m released on pre-charge bail or RUI?

If you have been released on pre-charge bail, or under investigation, it is crucial that you speak to an expert criminal defence solicitor as soon as possible. Just because you have been released and are not being held in police custody, there is still a distinct possibility that you could be charged further down the line (or within the time-limit of pre-charge bail).

Our criminal defence solicitors can carefully assess your personal circumstances and the charges you are facing, providing tailored pre-charge bail guidance and advising on the best steps to take. On the same note, if you are asked to return to the police station to face another interview under caution, we can work alongside you to ensure you are well represented to maximise the strength of your legal defence.

Many people incorrectly assume that speaking to a solicitor will signify an admission of guilt. This is not at all accurate. Everyone is entitled to legal representation, no matter their circumstances, and this can make all the difference when it comes to the final outcome of your case.

Related matters

We also provide support and guidance on various matters that are related to RUI and pre-charge bail, including:

Fees and Funding

We are always clear and transparent when it comes to the costs involved in your case.

Legal aid public funding may be available in some cases and will depend on the seriousness of the case, your current financial situation and whether it justifies the grant of public funding.

For clients that do not qualify for public funding, the alternative option will be to fund a case privately.

To find out more about the way we handle fees (both legal aid public funding and private fees), please use the links provided below:

Get immediate specialist legal advice about pre-charge bail and RUI

If you have been released on pre-charge bail or released under investigation, our criminal defence solicitors are on hand to lend their expertise and provide you with carefully tailored legal support.

Our expert knowledge and vast experience of the criminal justice system means that you can be confident knowing that your case is in the most dedicated and experienced hands. We will provide clear advice in plain English along with sympathetic personal support to help you through this difficult time.

You can contact us 24-hours a day, seven days a week, for an immediate free initial consultation, expert legal advice and representation.

Or email: solicitors@jdspicer.co.uk

Alternatively, you can fill out our quick online enquiry form, and we will get back to you quickly.


Click here to see how long you can be on bail without charge in the UK.

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Please get in touch for a free consultation with one of our expert criminal defence solicitors, as well as immediate representation and advice for the allegations you may be facing.

We are available to represent clients all over England and Wales at any time, so please contact our Emergency Number at 07836 577 556.

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Common questions

We always work with the most experienced and best leading UK barristers, KCs (Kings Counsel). We cover all criminal cases 24/7 at the police station and court. Offices in London, Birmingham, and Manchester cover cases across England and Wales. We can offer Legal Aid and affordable Private fee agreements. We can see you the same day, including virtually. Our Senior Partners supervise all of our cases.

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We respond quickly even during out of hours. We do not get our work by paying for online adverts but based on the fact that few criminal law firms can match our 45 years of experience. Most of our cases are still from word-of-mouth recommendations from satisfied clients. We are called daily by dissatisfied clients from firms with less experience than us. We respond very quickly to new enquiries. We know what clients seek and so we update clients rapidly.

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We always keep you updated and give straightforward advice. We will get cases dropped early where the case is weak or should not be prosecuted. We will be upfront with you about where you can benefit from a good result with an early guilty plea, such as a discount on your sentence. As we work on cases across all levels with clients from all walks of life, we are excellent at giving clear, spot-on advice. As an established firm, we can allocate a whole team to your case often at short notice to secure evidence to minimise the damage to you. 

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Do you offer free consultations?

Where it is possible, we aim to provide an initial consultation to you. If we can speak to you, we can if required inform you about  –

  • Whether we can take the case on and our relevant experience.
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  • Assistance in applying for legal aid where we are likely to accept instructions.
  • An outline of options in police interview only. We will not advise you on which option to adopt.
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  • The gravity of routine and day-to-day offences you face.
  • Consequences of not attending the court or police station.
  • Consequences of interfering with any witnesses.
  • Retaining any evidence in support of your case.
  • If possible an outline of the elements of the offence that the police or CPS must prove.
  • This consultation will normally be by telephone or email and will only be for as long as we deem necessary to establish if we can act for you. If we cannot usefully give you any advice in this manner then we will not continue with the consultation. We will not discuss the case in depth for you to be able to decide on your plea or any significant aspect of the case, as this cannot be undertaken informally.
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Consultations do not apply to the following cases –

  • If we do not intend to take the case on.
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  • In all cases where we do not have the capacity to take your case or the availability of suitably qualified staff to provide an initial free consultation. This is applicable in all cases but especially where a more senior lawyer is required because of your personal needs or the complexity of the case.
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