Government reforms to prevent people languishing for long spells under pre-charge bail have left at least 193,000 people languishing in legal limbo, according to police figures.
Data for 2017-2018 obtained by London firm Hickman & Rose through Freedom of Information requests feature in a Law Society briefing on 'Release under investigation' published today.
A 28-day time limit for police bail, introduced through the Policing and Crime Act 2017, came into force in April 2017. According to Hickman & Rose's data, based on responses received by 31 police authorities, the number of suspects on bail has dropped dramatically across the country - from 216,178 in 2016-17, to 43,923 in 2017-18. In 2017-18, 193,073 were released under investigation.
The data reveals lengthy spells under RUI status - 170 in Lincolnshire and 228 in Surrey.
The Law Society calls for RUI time limits, emailing or texting the accused with updates rather than relying on a single 'postal requisition' letter, a central register of the number of people released under investigation and fairer remuneration for defence solicitors.
Simon Davis, the Society's president, said: 'Thousands of suspects are being released under police investigation. With no fixed time limit, cases can take months or even years to go to court. Suspects are left with uncertainty; victims of crime often live in fear of being confronted by the accused.'
Hickman & Rose's Jenny Wiltshire, who obtained the figures, said RUI was intended to end the scandal of accused people having to wait months and, sometimes, years before being able to clear their names.
'But in reality, it has made the situation far worse,' she said. 'Not only are people released under investigation for longer than they were kept on police bail, but the absence of proper scrutiny means police do not keep suspects updated as to the progress of an investigation. Everyone in the criminal justice system, from police officers to defence lawyers, knows that RUI has been a dismal failure.'
Wiltshire commended the Society for highlighting the problems and its recommendations. However, she believes Chancery Lane 'should go further by pushing the police to formally adopt the Association of Chief Police Officers' guidelines on RUI, which state that all cases be regularly reviewed and that victims as well as suspects must be updated'.
Earlier this year the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association highlighted the consequences of RUI on the criminal justice system.