A 28-day limit on police bail has come into force across Lincolnshire and the rest of the UK.
The new legislation means that police can no longer keep suspects in limbo and must charge them within four weeks.
Pre-charge bail is where a suspect is released without charge, but must return to the police station at any given time. In some cases additional conditions may be attached.
Previously there was no limit to the length of time a suspect could be held on bail.
Under the new rules bail can still be extended for up to three months if authorised by a senior officer.
In some cases it can be extended further if approved by a magistrate.
David Ticket, crime lead at the College of Policing, said: “The new legislation is a significant change for policing and has sought to strike a balance between the need for police to manage investigations and not leaving a person suspected of a crime on bail for an unacceptably long period.
“We recognise this is a major change for policing and we are supporting our members by providing high quality training materials to help them continue to manage investigations to bring criminals to justice and protect the public.”
As previously reported, a Lincoln teen described how lengthy bail had robbed him of a family life and an education, with the city’s MP Karl McCartney fighting for reform.
McCartney said: “I am pleased that the government has made this change to the law in this area because in a democracy we cannot allow people to be controlled or half-accused of a crime in this way without sufficient time limitations and appropriate regulations in place.
“The open ended nature of pre-charge bail conditions breached the spirit of the British way of life and the relationship between the state and its people, and in my mind this is why there needed to be change.”
Phil Baker, chief inspector of the East Midlands Criminal Justice System for Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, previously told The Lincolnite: “Pre-charge bail can be up to 18 months and even longer, but it depends on each investigation.
“We need not only to protect potential victims, but witnesses, suspects and possible evidence too. We do not detain people for their inconvenience.
“If there was a cap in place clearly there could be evidence that was not gathered in time. This has the potential to undermine the system.”