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Police and Court Bail

Author: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 18 December 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]
My bondsman is a patient AT my in-laws business. Two times he has announced that he is my bondsman and I need to check in w him. I did check in w his co worker. We dont even have a relationship with my in-laws.. It imbarassed them and he did it in front of other patients. Is there a confidentiality rule concerning that?
dixie - 17-Dec-14 @ 10:21 PM
I have been married for approx 3 years, and have recently been falsely accused of common assault by my partner. Court trail is not for another 5 months, therefore i am on bail and not allowed to return the matrimonial home. Saying that, the matrimonial home is under my name as is the mortgage for the last 17 years. Considering the property & mortgage is solely under my name should these bail conditions still be applied..? Should my partner seek alternative accommadation.?
Singh - 14-Dec-14 @ 5:41 PM
@Jane28 - I think the best thing would be for you to talk to someone directly to explain your worries and fears. Refuge is a 24-hour National Domestic Violence confidential freephone helpline which is staffed by fully trained female helpline support workers and volunteers that will help guide you in the right direction. Link here.
CourtroomAdvice - 10-Dec-14 @ 2:48 PM
Hi thanks for writing bak. I was just wondering as hes been to prison Before for fighting and other offences Are they more than likly to bail him.or keep Him in custody as if he gets out on bail He will either hurt me again or get someone Else to do it. I have photos of my face and neck I dont no if thats enough evidence . And iv got some messages from him saying hes sorry For doin it . I dont know what to do this guy is a phsyco im scared To go out incase hes got anyone else to hurt me too .
jane28 - 10-Dec-14 @ 10:24 AM
@Jane28 - You can press charges after an assault by filing the charge with your local police station. Police officers will need to fill out a report and you will have to give them your name, the assailant’s name, both addresses and where the assault occurred, plus date and time it occurred, how it occurred and other supplementary information. If there is enough evidence to bring about charges, then an arrest warrant will be issued. This CPS document should help you and show you where you can get help here. First and foremost you need to keep yourself safe, and prevent this from happening to you again.
CourtroomAdvice - 9-Dec-14 @ 12:20 PM
@jane28 -he will get arrested and questioned, if you report it. But you should have really reported it straight away, when presumably you had the physical evidence and maybe witnesses, if it was in the road. You can't let him treat you like that. If you don't report him, it only gives him licence to do it again.
Becca - 9-Dec-14 @ 12:12 PM
@Deedee - it depends upon the police really and why they have put 'not' contacting you down as a condition of his bail. So hard to advise.
Jerry - 9-Dec-14 @ 12:07 PM
Hi my ex boyfriend beat me up in the street a week ago Bruising my face and strangled me to the point i couldnt breathe Hes got bipolar and a peronality disorder. I havebt been to the police because im too scared he wil Come back and do it again as he said he will kill.meand My famiky. Hes got a really bas criminal record too I was just wondering what will happen to him If i do ring up the police ?
jane28 - 8-Dec-14 @ 11:06 AM
My partner has been arrested and his bail conditions state that he cannot come to our home as my mother is staying there and he is not allowed to contact her or myself but he has not done anything to me. Do you think when my mother leaves they will change his bail conditions so he can come home? Also I have no knowledge or evidence I can give as I don't know anything about it. Just what I was told.
Deedee - 8-Dec-14 @ 9:51 AM
@Mallory - He has committed an offence and broken his bail conditions. It does not matter that you, as the victim have agreed to or initiated the contact; you are not subject to the bail conditions, the defendant is. It means he is responsible for complying with any conditions imposed by the police or the court.
CourtroomAdvice - 2-Dec-14 @ 10:58 AM
@Dotty - you shouldn't have to go through this. Is he living with you then? Because isn't this the address that should the police wish to find him, he will be there? I would contact your local police station and demand that something is done about this and that you never gave your consent. You should have at least have had a phone call to check.
Ken - 2-Dec-14 @ 10:44 AM
Hello, a male relative of mine is out on bail and using my address as his bail condition.I was never asked permission for this and have never agreed to any bail terms.I am a pensioner and am getting visits from the police at all hours to check up on him.I am increasingly distressed by this and the courts and police dont seem to care.His hearing is in january so I am just hoping that after that my address will be removed.I wanted to know if this was common practice - that a bail address can be provided with no verification from the owner of that address?If so, surely that could leave room for all sorts of misleading situations in the courts? Do I have any recourse?Any advice greatly appreciated.I have also contacted a couple of solicitors who are equally disinterested. Thanks in advance.
Dotty - 1-Dec-14 @ 2:33 PM
Hello, My ex has been bailed out of the house for domestic violence. A few of his conditions are not contacting me or meeting me. He did contact me about 5 weeks ago and convinced me into meeting him. I've also texted him, in between. It was a stupid mistake and I regret it. Now the court appointment about these assaults is in two weeks and I am worried he maybe told his solicitor that I've texted him but left out, that he contacted me first and met up with me. So I was going to tell the police about this today. Now I was wondering, as he breached his bail conditions at the time 5 weeks ago, can the police still arrest him for this even though it's been a few weeks ago? I hope you can help me. Thank you very much!
MalloryKnox - 1-Dec-14 @ 9:19 AM
@CourtroomAdvice - Thankyou, but this is a police basil, there has been no court order to date and I don't even know if it will go to court. I will remember your advice and otherwise stick to the bail condition that I appear in London at the police station where I was bailed.
Speckles - 27-Nov-14 @ 8:33 PM
@speckles - as specified in the article, while on police bail you can apply at the magistrates court to vary the conditions, although there is no guarantee that the court will allow such variations. However, be careful, if you don’t stick to the conditions currently laid out, you can be arrested and be taken to prison to wait for your court hearing.
CourtroomAdvice - 27-Nov-14 @ 2:09 PM
I was arrested and not charged for 'outraging public decency' in London back in September but released on bail without charge after a few hours. I was almost coerced into accepting a 'caution' but as I absolutely deny ANY wrongdoing. I live in Wales and would like to know if I can attend to answer the bail at my local police station?
speckles - 27-Nov-14 @ 11:08 AM
@Twanky - She keeps getting bailed again because they haven't yet been able to charge her. The extra time allows police to carry out further enquiries into the case before making a final decision on whether or not to prosecute. Conditions imposed can vary from person to person.
Matthew - 27-Nov-14 @ 10:58 AM
My friend was arrested on suspicion of stabbing her partner. She was bailed to our address for 2 wks with no unsupervised contact with her kids. 2 wks pass and she was bailed again! Last night she was bailed yet again for another 2 wks. Anyway, bail notice says bailed varied. I have tried to search it's meaning. Also this bail notice contains no exemptions,as previously noted. Furthermore,her bail address does not appear. Pls explain ??
Twanky - 26-Nov-14 @ 9:36 AM
@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
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