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UK Justice Ministry unveils legislation extending custody time for defendants awaiting trial during pandemic
© WikiMedia (Michael Coghlan)
UK Justice Ministry unveils legislation extending custody time for defendants awaiting trial during pandemic

The UK Ministry of Justice announced temporary legislation on Sunday that will extend the time that defendants can be held in custody while awaiting trial. This temporary legislation is meant to decrease pressure on courts from a backlog of more than 43,000 cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, defendants can be held for 182 days after their first court appearance. After that time, there has to be an application to a judge for the defendant to be kept longer. Under the ministry’s proposal, the detainment maximum will be extended to 238 days.

This proposal has been largely criticized, as the 182-day limit helped to ensure swift justice for both defendants and victims.

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland also announced a plan, funded by £80 million, to increase the capacity of criminal courts. This Criminal Courts Recovery Plan includes hiring 1,600 court staff and increasing capacity through “Nightingale Courts.”

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland has 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 apologize 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.

The legislation is expected to go into effect on September 28. It will apply to anyone arrested and remanded for offenses “serious enough for a Crown Court trial,” and it will remain in effect for nine months.