Custody time limits to be extended

Suspects may spend another two months awaiting jury trial

The Ministry of Justice has announced plans to extend the period that suspects in England and Wales facing serious charges can be held in custody pending jury trial.

Under current regulations,

the maximum period of custody between the accused being sent to the Crown Court by a magistrates; court for an offence and the start of the trial in relation to it shall be 182 days

less any period the accused was held in custody by the magistrates (regulation 5(6B)).

This six-month period is to be extended by eight weeks to 238 days. New regulations will take effect on 28 September and last for nine months.

Announcing the change this morning, the lord chancellor Robert Buckland said:

Throughout the pandemic this government has taken the necessary steps to protect the public while ensuring that justice continues to be delivered.

This temporary extension to custody time limits will keep victims and the public safe, and we should not apologise for making that our priority.

At the same time, the measures I have announced today will get the criminal courts system back to where it needs to be — reducing delays and delivering speedier justice for all.

Welcoming the recovery plan — while making no comment on the extension to custody time limits — Lord Burnett of Maldon, lord chief justice of England and Wales, said:

The pandemic has had an adverse impact on the timeliness of the criminal justice system, with many trials necessarily delayed. This plan is an important document which gives a clear path towards recovery as the judges and magistrates, in partnership with HM Courts Service, the Ministry of Justice and many others, strive to ensure that cases are heard as soon as possible in the public interest and the interests of all those involved in the criminal process.

Here are some comments from The Secret Barrister: