A full review into the ever increasing police policy of arresting suspects under a blaze of publicity, and then keeping them on bail for month after month, is being called for by a leading criminal defence lawyer.
Nick Freeman said a string of recent cases – many involving high profile individuals – demonstrated that police were prematurely arresting suspects before their investigations had reached an appropriate stage.
The Loophole lawyer, who began his career prosecuting for Greater Manchester police, said an arrest should only be made once officers had reasonable cause to suspect the defendant had committed an offence.
Those who have experienced this type of arrest include comedians Jimmy Tarbuck, Freddie Star and Jim Davidson, and a string of Fleet Street journalists.
In addition, Mr Freeman said it was also important to remember that although there was a presumption of innocence, a defendant can only now recover a tiny fraction of his defence costs upon acquittal at the magistrates’ court, and no costs at the crown court.
Furthermore, the courts now impose a substantial additional cost upon convicted defendants. In a recent poll, 93 per cent of magistrates’ surveyed were opposed to the new court charge, describing it as being “disproportionate and unfair”.
Mr Freeman said: “Typically the police hear a whisper about an individual, then arrest them at an embryonic stage before they have reasonable cause to suspect. The defendant is then bailed for months on end whilst the real investigation is conducted.
“This is topsy-turvy policing, and this practice must be outlawed. In my view there should be time constraints when defendants are placed on bail. Additionally, the defendant should be entitled to anonymity unless public interest dictates to the contrary, in which case an application should be made to a High Court judge.
“The current system traduces your personal and professional life and can also ruin you financially. Moreover, mud sticks.
Mr Freeman added: “There should be a full review of this policy, with appropriate time constraints put in place dependent on the offence and the nature of the investigation.”