At least 12,000 suspected sex offenders were released back into their community by police without any bail conditions, putting victims at risk, Home Office figures reveal.
A further 55,000 arrested for violent offences were also released under investigation in the year to March 2021, meaning no conditions were placed on them after their release to protect the public.
The figures, revealed for the first time by the Home Office, show that more than a third of all suspects arrested by police in the year to March 2021 were released without any bail conditions.
The data was obtained by shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper who warned it was underestimate of the true figure as the figures only covered 23 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.
She told The Telegraph: “It cannot be right that tens of thousands of people suspected of committing violent and sexual offences are released in our communities without any conditions at all.
“For victims of domestic abuse or stalking it is particularly traumatic to know that the suspect has been released without any conditions at all.”
Release under investigation was introduced in 2017 to prevent suspects spending months languishing on police bail.
But last year Home Secretary Priti Patel urged forces to scale back its use after it emerged people were spending even longer in limbo. However, the Home Office refused to set out any timetable for ending release under investigation, instead only pledging to limit its use “going forward”.
In December the Government was warned by the independent police and justice inspectorates that “in many cases of domestic abuse and stalking, suspects are RUI instead of being bailed with conditions”.
The Home Office data shows there were 147,334 individuals were released under investigation (RUI) in 2020/21 – accounting for 35 per cent of the arrests made over the year. More than a third (36 per cent) had been under investigation for six months or more.
Of these, more than a third – 55,207 – involved violence against the person, one in 12 (8.6 per cent or 12,663) was a suspected sex offender, and 6,130 or four per cent had been arrested for knife possession.
Ms Cooper said: “Ministers must urgently set out when they plan to change the system so there are proper conditions on suspects of violent crime and sexual offences that can keep victims and communities safe and secure.”
A Home Office spokesman said its new crime bill would remove the perceived presumption against bail: “This will lead a reduction in the use of release under investigation by police forces and should mean more suspects are placed on bail.”