Bail reforms aimed at putting victims at the heart of the system are to be named Kay’s Law after a woman who was brutally murdered by her estranged husband after he was released under investigation.
Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, announced that the presumption against releasing suspects on pre-charge bail will be scrapped, as revealed by The Telegraph earlier this week.
Instead, police officers will be expected to prioritise the safety of victims and the public when considering whether to use bail and impose strict conditions on the release of suspects of domestic abuse and sexual violence.
The law, to be introduced in a criminal justice bill, will be named after Kay Martin, a 49-year-old care worker, whose bricklayer husband Alan Martin, 53, bludgeoned and strangled her to death.
He had been released under investigation by Northumbria Police and even had the keys to his house returned to him after she had accused him of raping and abusing her.
She had suffered at least 12 incidents of domestic abuse in the past seven years, prompting Derek Winter, the Sunderland Coroner, to write to Ms Patel calling for greater protection for victims of domestic violence after their attackers are released under investigation.
The law will be named after Kay Martin, a 49-year-old care worker, whose bricklayer husband Alan Martin, 53, bludgeoned and strangled her to death
Ms Patel said: "I can’t imagine the pain and suffering of the families of victims like Kay Richardson [her maiden name], and I want them to know their voices have been heard. Victims and witnesses of the most distressing crimes – including domestic abuse and sexual violence – must be protected while allegations are investigated.
"It is my priority to deliver justice for victims, and Kay’s Law will put victims at the heart of the bail system, empower police to ensure that suspects are closely monitored and protect the public."
Ms Patel will also increase the period for which criminal suspects can be bailed from 28 days to up to 90 to allow police and prosecutors more time to amass evidence for any prosecution before they have to be released.
The moves are designed to massively scale back the use of "release under investigation", which was first put forward by Theresa May when Home Secretary and then introduced by her successor Amber Rudd.
Police, victims’ groups and lawyers have expressed concerns that the changes to the bail rules in 2017 backfired, with thousands of crime suspects being "released under investigation" by police without any restrictions, putting victims and the public in danger.
Figures released under Freedom of Information laws showed that the number of suspected offenders released while still under investigation rose from 6,464 in 2016 to 97,473 in 2019, including violent and sexual offenders as well as domestic abusers.