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Police and Court Bail

Author: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 24 November 2014 |
Bail Court Police Charge Criminal

If a police investigation is ongoing into alleged criminal activity, you may be bailed to return to the police station on a future date. Once you have been charged with a criminal offence, the police are required to release you on bail unless one of the following applies:

  • the police have doubts about your identity or address, or
  • you need to be detained for your own, or someone else’s, protection
  • there are concerns that you will fail to attend court, or interfere with the administration of justice (e.g. by contacting witnesses)

Bail Offences

If you are released on police bail and do not return on the date and at the time required, you may be charged with a separate criminal offence. This is called ‘failure to surrender’ and whilst you may not think that the actual penalty given for this offence is particularly serious, it does count as a ‘breach of trust’. Breaches of trust on a person’s criminal record may affect your ability to get bail if you are ever charged with an offence in the future.

Bail Conditions

Your bail from the police station may be conditional or unconditional. If there are conditions attached to your bail, you may for example be told that you have to reside at a specific address, report to a local police station, stay inside your house at certain hours of the day, not contact certain people or go to certain places, or provide a surety (a sum of money that you may lose if you fail to attend court.) You may also be told to surrender your passport.

If you breach any of these conditions, you may be arrested and brought before the magistrates court. You may be charged under the Bail Act 1976 and could also be remanded in custody until your trial.

While on police bail you can apply at the magistrates court to vary the conditions of the bail, although there is no guarantee that the court will allow such variations.

Court Bail

Once you appear before the magistrates court, you can apply to vary your conditions. If you have been remanded in police custody, you can apply for bail at your hearing before the magistrates court. The court may grant you bail, may allow you bail with conditions, or refuse bail and remand you in custody.

If you have not been convicted of any offence, you have a right to be granted bail unless certain exceptions apply. If the court thinks that you are likely to fail to attend court, interfere with witnesses or may commit further offences you will not be given bail. In determining whether any of these factors apply to you, the court will consider the nature and seriousness of the offence that you have been charged with, the strength of the evidence against you, your personal circumstances and community ties, any previous convictions and in particular any breaches of trust (such as failure to answer bail), as well as whether you have any other outstanding charges or are currently serving any other sentence.


If the court decides that it is appropriate it can attach certain conditions to your bail so as to ensure, as far as possible that you return when you are supposed to. If you are asked to provide a surety, this is a sum of money – which you or someone else puts up on your behalf – that may have to be forfeit if you fail to surrender to bail. There is no need to pay this money to the court when you get bail, but you have to show that it is available if needed.

Re-Applying For Bail

You have two chances to apply for bail at the magistrates court, or if there is a change in your circumstances. If this fails, you can apply for bail again at the crown court, known as ‘judge in chambers.’ You can also go to the High Court but this is rare.

If you do not get bail, there are limits on the amount of time you can spend in custody without the prosecution having to apply for an extension. These are:

  • Magistrates court trials -56 days
  • Crown court committals – 70 days
  • Crown court committal to trial – 112 days

Any extension must be fully justified by the prosecution in order to be granted by the court. You can find out more about what happens the first time you appear in court here.

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Leave a Comment, Ask for Advice or Share Your Story...
[Add a Comment]
@Piko1 er - If the police don't yet have the full evidence to charge you after arrest, they may release you on bail, with the condition to report to apolice station on a specific date. When you turn up, they will either release you without charge, charge you, alternatively they may continue your bail and issue another date for you to return to the station.
CourtroomAdvice - 25-Nov-14 @ 12:50 PM
@J - If you are a low risk adult prisoner and eligible for release on bail or home detention curfew (HDC), but don’t have suitable accommodation to go to, you may be able to get help with supported accommodation through the bail accommodation and support scheme (BASS). It can help with accommodation in a shared houses in a residential area, and a visiting support officer. (Accommodation can be provided for families too.) While you will have to pay rent for BASS accommodation, you may be able to get housing benefit to help with the cost. The link is here. I hope this helps.
CourtroomAdvice - 25-Nov-14 @ 12:13 PM
i got arrested for fraud mail for applying credit card on someone name to his adress last month but the police didnt find nothing on me but the officer tell me he saw me on cctv picking his mail from the box and me a friend of me spend the card which was £2k i have to go back to the police station end of this month but i dont know what will happened any one know about it
piko1er - 24-Nov-14 @ 11:40 AM
I've lost my bail letter and can't not make bail tomorrow How and who do I ring to speak to , without bail refence ?
Peppac - 24-Nov-14 @ 11:30 AM
If someone is let on bail and that they are effectively banished from the town they live in And find somewhere else to live in the meantime but are unfortunately unable to stay for the Hole duration of bail at this alternative address then become homeless, with no money or food etc how can they be re-arrested voluntalary so that they can go to prison because there is no where else for them to go and no one to help !Ive tried they wont help him ! He is actualy braking his bail terms due to having no where else to go .... ? Its far too cold to live on the streets fir someone who has sufferd with depression/been sucidal on two occasions and yet still been released ? Also hows this person supposed to pick up prescriptions without arrest fron his doctors ?
j - 24-Nov-14 @ 10:39 AM
@Summer - Not turning up to court is a criminal offence (under s6 Bail Act). For your own safety, you should report it to the police if you know where he may be hiding.
CourtroomAdvice - 21-Nov-14 @ 10:15 AM
Hi, my ex partner was arrested for Harassment/stalking me approx 5weeks ago and pleaded guilty to the charge. He broke his bail conditions by contacting me again 3 weeks ago. He was supposed to attend court yesterday for sentencing but did not turn up. Can you advise me what the courts or police will do now as I am worried he will turn up at my home when it's dark. Also, I hear that he is hiding at a friends and wonder if they could get into trouble for housing him?
Summer - 20-Nov-14 @ 5:14 PM
Thanks There was no disclosure of the offence against a child, and no one checked there were children in the building. So my next question is What has the greatest standing? The need to hide the pre charge bail offense so the offender can have a normal life OR The need to disclose to be able to safeguard children.
Jac - 20-Nov-14 @ 7:03 AM
@Jac - an address would definitely be needed for bail and I imagine that address would have to be checked out fully.
MattK - 19-Nov-14 @ 2:31 PM
@SAMY - It must be so frustrating. Your predicament seems as much down to prison red tape than anything else, and the prison service seems to have their own systems for doing things. All I can think of is to keep trying to get in touch with your free legal rep and hope they can do something to help. Can you ask any of your family to call the Offender's Family Helpline on your behalf as any advice is better than no advice at all.
Gemma - 19-Nov-14 @ 12:43 PM
If a man is on pre charge bail for offences of possessing indecent images, and is made homeless because of arrest.Can he be brought to a guest house without disclosure to owner. Would that property have to be risk assessed to identify children living in the property.Would an address be required for bail, or could the offender be dropped off in the street
Jac - 19-Nov-14 @ 7:30 AM
bailed deferred again with just hours notices ,last time was apparently police station moving,this time investigating officer has left ,family torn apart wanted this over in 2014 now jan 2015 this case has been going on sincesept 2013 ,handed to cpc june 2014 then back to police soill now and family had enough .can never get hold of my free legal representativenot sure which way to go now
SAMY - 18-Nov-14 @ 5:02 PM
@charlene - unless you have been given a contact number, I'd contact your local police station and tell them he has broken bail.
jay - 18-Nov-14 @ 3:04 PM
Hi who do I contact if my ex has contacted me. And which his bail condition is not to contact me and hehas been arrested before for braking bail condition. And he has done it again..
charlene - 17-Nov-14 @ 1:38 PM
@Spenny - there isn't anything specifically tailored for people on bail. However,I can direct you to the Turn2Us website regarding people leaving prison which may be of some help. link here .
CourtroomAdvice - 13-Nov-14 @ 2:14 PM
My sister is on bail 400 miles away from her city living with her boyfriends grandfather and has no money to eat or even get around, is there some sort of money for bail she can get?
Spenny - 13-Nov-14 @ 12:59 PM
@shadow - it depends what conditions are attached to his bail in order to minimize risk and they can differ. Conditions might usually mean the defendant has to be at the approved address between certain times (curfew), or the defendant may not be allowed to go to certain places, see certain people or drink alcohol or it might include electronic tagging.
CourtroomAdvice - 13-Nov-14 @ 12:23 PM
My ex partner has been bailed to an address does this mean he has to stay there ofnighthe is not allowed by me or my child
shadow - 12-Nov-14 @ 9:00 PM
@Hoppy - Yes, once the case has been dropped, so do the bail conditions.
PaulV - 10-Nov-14 @ 2:17 PM
My son has had a case against him dropped do's that mean his conditioning bail has been dropped as well thanks
hoppy - 9-Nov-14 @ 10:38 AM
Thank you for that, he is trying to get back in her head and she is believing him x
madmare - 7-Nov-14 @ 4:41 PM
@Madmare - If you inform the police the defendant has breached bail conditions, then the police can arrest the defendant and bring him back into custody.
Sal - 7-Nov-14 @ 12:49 PM
My daughters partner was found guilty of assault breaching bail conditions he was granted bail to appear on another date, he is not allowed to contact or approach her but I know this has been breached if I inform the police will he get picked up?
madmare - 7-Nov-14 @ 12:11 PM
@jbmc12 - I'd check with the police, given their age they might be able to make some concessions.
Andy - 4-Nov-14 @ 3:11 PM
Hi just wondering, my gran got arrested at the weekend for attacking my granda (her husband) both are over 70yrs old. My gran was then kept over the weekend and put tho court yesterday. She has been bailed on the unual terms and not aloud in contact with my granda or the house. My granda os not able to live in the house due to old age and having to rely on everyone. Is it possible to get the bail terms changed so that my granda stays with me and my gran lives in their own house alone? Please and thank you.
jbmc12 - 4-Nov-14 @ 11:37 AM
@xoxox- I think it works like this - if you have been a victim of a crime then you can contact the police with your crime reference number and they will keep you informed on what stage it is at. But I don't think you can if you are a work colleague.
JennyO - 30-Oct-14 @ 1:41 PM
Am ex colleague of mine is currently on bail whilst being investigated for rape. Is there any way that I can find out whether he has been formally charged or not? Is this information made public? Many thanks.
xoxox - 29-Oct-14 @ 6:55 PM
@Kim92 - The justification for the process of bail is essentially a practical one. So, I'd think it would depend upon the crime committed, but I imagine they will want to know where he is and will do everything to ensure he is where he says he's going to be, as it is important that a defendant is not allowed to ‘go on the run’ and miss the court hearing, or try to intimidate certain witnesses. JohnJ.
JohnJ - 27-Oct-14 @ 2:11 PM
@LW2 are you sure this PC is legit? It sounds like it could be breach of bail. I'd try and find out some more info about this PC first. When he next rings; get his name, ID number, telehone number, dept etc, and then do a back check to see. He shouldn't be harassing you. If he is legit, could you arrange a place between you to deposit your ex's belongings, rather than him come to the house? Have you got family that could deliver his stuff to your ex, or his family, so you don't have to see him? Sal
Sal - 27-Oct-14 @ 1:05 PM
My partner has been on remand for almost 6 weeks now and he got his hearing on the 7th of November he wants to apply for a bail and his using my mothers address will they have to contact her first before applying for it ?
Kim92 - 26-Oct-14 @ 9:18 AM
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