POLICE chiefs in Sunderland and Durham are waiting to hear whether thousands of suspected criminals could be released without charge as part of a controversial ruling.
Force bosses are awaiting the result of an emergency appeal to suspend a ruling that means officers can no longer bail suspects for more than four days without either charging or releasing them.
If the private hearing by three Supreme Court judges on Monday is granted, it will mean the move will be put on hold until the full appeal is heard at the same court on July 25.
The police forces have been thrown into chaos after learning they face being forced to release thousands of suspected rapists, murderers and other thugs if they cannot be charged within the time limit.
Work is underway to push forward emergency legislation to reverse the judge’s ruling, which overturns 25 years of police practice.
Assistant Chief Constable Greg Vant, of Northumbria Police, said: “This case fundamentally alters the interpretation that police, CPS and courts have taken in good faith of pre-charge detention and bail provisions in PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) since its introduction in 1986.
“Officers are currently being briefed about the implications of the ruling and we will be working in accordance with revised guidance issued nationally with immediate effect until further clarification is received.
“We are working with partners in the criminal justice system to understand any potential impact this ruling may have on these cases.”
Northumbria Police said it has 3,185 suspects on police bail.
It is unsure whether all of these will have to be released unless an immediate charge can be brought against them.
A spokesman for Durham police added: “Durham Constabulary shares the concerns which have been expressed nationally about this ruling.
“Following the statement given by the Policing Minister we await further guidance from ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) which of course we will be following.”
Policing Minister Nick Herbert has confirmed emergency legislation will be brought forward to reverse the ruling and enable officers to do their jobs.
The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear an appeal against the ruling on July 25.