Bristol Crown Court has ruled that custody time limits cannot be extended because of the current barristers’ strikes. The ruling has since been adopted by other judges, although some cases are being appealed to the High Court.
What’s happening with the barristers’ strike?
We previously reported that barristers across England and Wales have been staging ongoing strikes to protest against the levels of legal aid funding. This has created an even larger backlog of criminal cases in the judicial system, as there are not enough defence barristers to represent clients in court.
What impact is this having on custody time limits?
In the meantime, those being held in custody are facing even longer waits to appear in court. However, a person cannot be kept in custody indefinitely. The law in England and Wales regulates the maximum amount of time a person can be held in custody before their trial starts. This is usually six months.
Can the maximum custody time limit be extended?
The custody time limit (CTL) can be extended, but only where there is a good and sufficient cause for the extension. This does not apply to most cases. Therefore, if a trial has not taken place within six months, the defendant must be released on bail to await their trial, rather than be remanded in custody.
Is the barristers’ strike a good enough reason?
The question is: is the barristers’ strike a good enough reason for extending custody time limits? The most senior judge at Bristol Crown Court recently addressed this question, and he found that the answer was no, the strike action is not a good and sufficient cause to extend custody time limits.
What did the judge say?
The judge said that the government was responsible for the barristers’ strike, which it “has had many months to resolve”. The judge added: “in my view today’s predicament arises precisely because of the chronic and predictable consequences of long term underfunding… I am not at all persuaded, therefore, that there is a ‘good and sufficient cause’ to extend the CTL”.
Does this mean I’ll be released from custody?
Other judges across the country have followed suit and are denying extensions to custody time limits in routine cases, where the primary reason for the request is the barristers’ strike. However, this presents a significant problem for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). The CPS has appealed several cases to the High Court.
Advice for our clients
We take instructions from our clients where the CPS is seeking to extend their custody time limit. If you do not want to remain in custody and would rather be released on bail, we will oppose any requests to extend the custody time limit. We remain up-to-date on the latest legal developments so we are best placed to advise you properly.
Contact our criminal defence lawyers
If you have been accused of a criminal offence, contact us now for free legal advice.
Call us on 0333 009 6275. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.