THE BLOG

The Move to Speed Up Justice in the Queen's Speech Will Benefit Tens of Thousands

28/05/2015 09:59 BST | Updated 27/05/2016 10:59 BST

In May 2012, just a week after we got back from our honeymoon, my wife, The Sun's Whitehall Editor Clodagh Hartley, was arrested under allegations of corrupt payments to a press officer in exchange for stories.

She was subsequently released on police bail which she spent a year on before finally being charge and had to wait a further 18 months to go to trial where a jury found her not guilty.

She was just one of 70,000 people being held on police bail at any point in Britain today. More than 5,000 of those have been held for more than six months without charge. They are all innocent until proven guilty.

It is the reason why I set up Justice Delayed Justice Denied, last year, to campaign for the amount of time police can hold someone on bail without charge to be limited to 28 days except in exceptional circumstances.

After setting up the campaign, last year, I heard from teachers banned from seeing their own children due to unproven allegations made by their students and mothers whose children had been banned from attending school.

Many had been held on pre-charge bail for years and then without warning or apology had all charges dropped. Some had dubious and crippling conditions added to their bail such as not being able to use the internet, not being able to travel and in one case not being allowed to tell anyone publicly about why they were on police bail.

Police bail which was introduced for good enough reasons back in 1984 - to make space in police cells and allow those accused to get on with their lives while the police gathered further evidence.

But over the years lazy police methods meant that almost as many people today are on police bail as are in our prisons.

Police guidelines stating that people should only be held for more than 28 days in exceptional circumstances were clearly being breached.

Earlier this year the home secretary Theresa May said that she would legislate as soon as possible to right this wrong.

It is a great credit to her and today the government found room in the Queen's Speech for the Police and Criminal Justice Bill which will limit pre-charge bail to 28 days as normal with extensions beyond three months needing judicial approval.

For justice to be fair it must be swift.

We will never get back the two and a half years we spent awake at night worrying about whether she would be jailed and the affect that would have on our children aged three and one.

But this change in the law will mean that other innocent people do not suffer the same fate.

John Higginson is Head of Corporate Communications for Insight Consulting Group