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THE JURY IS STILL OUT ON BAIL RULING; 'Business as usual' as cops await clarification.

Byline: Emma Stone

POLICE in Coventry say it's "business as usual" as they await clarification of a controversial ruling on releasing suspects on bail.

The ruling - made by a district judge sitting at Salford Magistrates Court and backed by the High Court - restricts the use of bail, stating suspects can be freed on police bail for no more than four days.

Yesterday, senior police officers met with Home Secretary Theresa May to discuss how to respond to the ruling.

It's understood the Home Secretary was informed of the ruling and its implications last Friday.

Police have commonly released suspects on bail for weeks, or even months in some cases, while an inquiry continued.

But the ruling would mean suspects would need to be charged or released within four days. And could only be re-arrested on 'new evidence'. A West Midlands Police spokesman said: "The force is considering the operational implications of this ruling and potential impact on detaining and bailing arrested people. We are seeking clarification around the operational implications of this case. While this piece of work is being undertaken we are continuing with business as usual in relation to the detention and bail of suspects." The ruling followed the case of Paul Hookway, a murder suspect, who was first arrested on November 7 last year.

A superintendent granted permission for him to be detained for up to 36 hours for questioning, but he was released on bail after about 28 hours.

Five months later, on April 5, police applied to the courts to extend the period of detention from 36 hours to the maximum allowed of 96 hours but the district judge refused, saying that the 96 hours had expired months ago.

Police applied to the High Court for a judicial review of the case, but Mr Justice Mc-Combe upheld the district judge's decision on May 19 and refused leave to appeal. The force is now seeking leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. James Welch, of civil rights group Liberty, said: "Being out on bail pending investigation is not the equivalent of being detained.

Limits on the time that suspects can be held in police custody are necessary but there are good reasons why the police should be allowed to bail suspects for more than 96 hours. "If this decision cannot be appealed legislation should be introduced to clarify the law. This would also be an opportunity to introduce safeguards into the system and to extend the regime to include terror suspects and end the scandal of punishment without trial."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 1, 2011
Words:423
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