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NEWS

Short Update: Custody time limit to be increased to ease court case backlog in England

FT Admin - September 10, 2020 - COVID-19 Updates, Extended pre-trial detention

The UK government plans to increase custody time limits for pre-trial detainees to ease the pressure of a rising backlog of court cases, which has been exacerbated by the partial shutdown of the courts during lockdown. There are thought to be 500,000 cases waiting to be heard in magistrates and crown courts, an increase of about 100,000 on pre-pandemic levels. A shortage of courts has caused delays of up to three years.

Fair Trials criticised this new legislation, calling both for proper funding of the criminal justice system and a reduction in the numbers of prisoners being held in pre-trial detention. Rather than seeking to increase court capacity, Fair Trials argues that efforts should also be made to decrease the number of cases. Read our press release.

This summer, Judge Keith Raynor refused a third extension of an alleged drug dealer’s custody stating that the lack of available courts was not a good enough reason to extend the custody time limit. At the time, Raynor warned “many defendants in custody will not be tried until well into 2021”. On Tuesday,  he issued again a highly critical ruling on the case of a 19-year-old who has been held for almost a year. He repeated that he cannot continue to order defendants to remain behind bars if the justice system is failing to bring them to trial: “[t]he lack of money provided by parliament to provide sufficient space for trials to be conducted does not amount to a good nor a sufficient cause to extend the custody time limit in this case.”

We publish information as it is reported to us. If you would like to make us aware of an inaccuracy or send us more information  please email us at [email protected]

 

If you are a journalist interested in this story, please telephone Fair Trials’ press department on +44 (0) 20 7822 2370 or +32 (0) 2 360 04 71.

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