‘Toothless’ police bail too weak to stop terrorists fleeing abroad, says counter-terror chief

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Police bail needs to be overhauled because is not strong enough to hold terrorists and prevent them from fleeing, according to Metropolitan Police top counter-terror cop Mark Rowley.

Assistant Commissioner Rowley told MPs on Monday that up to 100 terror suspects are currently on bail facing investigation, but under current rules it was not an offence to breach conditions imposed by police.

Currently, merely failing to attend when summoned by authorizes is considered an offence, Rowley said.

His comments come a week after it emerged six men, including Siddhartha Dhar - the man suspected of presiding over executions in a recent Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) video - had fled the UK while on bail or while known to police.

Police bail is a weak provision and is something we are in conversations with the Home Office about, about ways to strengthen it,” he told the Commons Home Affairs Committee.

If conditions are put on somebody, which may be a curfew, may be non-association, may be surrendering passport, if that person breaches those conditions in a police bail process we can arrest them but we can’t prosecute them.

They are back in police custody with a very tight timescale so they just get bailed again with the same conditions. It is fairly toothless.

Rowley said that breaches of bail should be made a criminal offence. He also said that of 339 terror arrest made last year, a third are now on bail. He warned an overhaul is needed to keep those bailed in check.

The control around that third would be stronger, if police bail was a stronger provision,” he told the committee.