Released under investigation: Ben Stokes and The Ashes
The latest Ashes series between the cricket teams of England and Australia began today. There was a noticeable absentee from the England team: Ben Stokes. You may remember that Stokes was arrested in the early hours of 25th September on suspicion of ABH. Shortly after that, CCTV allegedly showing the incident was widely circulated in the media, and two key witnesses finally came forward towards the end of October.
Released under investigation
After his arrest and interview, Stokes was ‘released under investigation’. In April 2017, legislation aimed at reforming pre-charge bail came into force. An officer of the rank of Inspector or above can authorise pre-charge bail for a maximum of 28 days. In limited circumstances, this can be extended for up to 12 months.
The stated aim of this change was ‘to stop people remaining on bail for lengthy periods without independent judicial scrutiny of its continued necessity’. In practice, it has made no difference at all. Suspects are now simply released under investigation, with no idea at all when a decision is going to be made about their case. At least under the previous regime, suspects were given a bail date and there was an expectation that some progress may have been made by the time that date came around.
Stokes’ case is typical of the delays within the criminal justice system. This is, on the face of it, not a complicated case. There are very few witnesses, there is good quality CCTV footage of the incident and the suspects have been quickly identified, arrested and interviewed.
Over 8 weeks have passed since the incident. During that time Stokes, like many suspects, has been effectively suspended from work and faces uncertainty about his career. The others involved, complainants and witnesses also face uncertainty over whether they will need to go to court and give evidence.
Whether he is guilty or not, Stokes and others in his position deserve better than being held in limbo like this.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written, which may affect the information and advice given therein.