Nearly 10,000 suspected violent criminals and sex offenders released under investigation

Nearly 100,000 suspected violent criminals and sex offenders – including those accused of rape and murder – have been released by police without any restrictions in the last two years, figures suggest.

Some 322,250 cases involved suspects being released under investigation (RUI) between April 2017 and October this year, according to statistics obtained under freedom of information laws by the BBC’s Newsnight programme.

Of these, 93,098 of the cases involved allegations of crimes of violence against a person and sexual offences.

The programme, which will broadcast a report on its findings at 10.30pm on Tuesday night, asked all 44 police forces in England and Wales to provide figures and 20 responded – indicating the correct statistics could be much higher.

The figures also suggested 2,772 violent and sexual offences investigations remained as RUIs for at least a year.

Last month, the Home Secretary announced bail rules were to be reviewed amid mounting pressure to reconsider reforms brought in just two years ago.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the use of bail had decreased since 2017 and the number of RUIs had increased, adding: “Concerns have been raised that pre-charge bail is not consistently being used in instances where it may be necessary to effectively manage suspects and protect victims and witnesses.”

RUI is an alternative to bail introduced as part of reforms two years ago which sees suspects leave custody after an arrest without any restrictions while inquiries continue.

Suspects on bail have to comply with conditions such as living at a certain address, not contacting particular people, or regularly visiting a police station.

But the law changed in April 2017, when Amber Rudd (pictured) was home secretary, in a bid to limit the time someone spends on bail to 28 days to try to cut the number of people facing restrictions for long periods of time without being charged.

It instead offered police the chance to use RUI for an unlimited period of time.

Last year, Kay Richardson was murdered by her estranged husband Alan Martin after police released him under investigation.

He had a history of domestic abuse and she had reported him for rape.

Ms Richardson’s mother Audrey Richardson, 77, of Sunderland, told Newsnight: “I wouldn’t trust them to run a bath. Our law system in this country stinks.

“It absolutely stinks, the whole system needs an overhaul.”

Richard Miller, of the Law Society, told the programme it was “potentially a major scandal brewing”.

He said: “Police are now very often choosing to release people under investigation where previously they would have used bail.

“This means there are no constraints on the individual, no limitations on them visiting certain places or contacting people and there are no requirements for them to report back to the police station at a subsequent date.”

Caroline Goodwin, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “The fact is, released under investigation was never really designed for these type of offences and we are seeing an increase in their use for serious violence, for offences of a sexual nature, rape, domestic violence cases where people are being released under investigation.”

Dal Babu, former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent, said: “It’s quite frightening to see those figures in black and white.

“I think we are letting down victims of crime.”

In April, the Centre for Women’s Justice made a super complaint to the police watchdog Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS), accusing forces of failing to use protective measures in cases of violence against females.

A month later, the “unintended consequences” of the reforms saw the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) issue fresh guidance to forces and HMICFRS launch an overall inquiry into bail and RUI with Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate.

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Stefan Rousseau / PA Wire.