When a person is remanded into custody to await trial, they will be given a custody time limit (CTL). This the deadline for how long they can be kept in prison awaiting trial. If it expires before their trial begins, they must be released. The CPS can, and regularly do, apply to the Crown Court for CTL extensions if they think that the trial won’t start before the deadline expires. The judge can only grant an extension if there is a ‘good and sufficient cause’ to do so. Trials across the country have been delayed because of the CBA Action. This has resulted in a slew of applications by the CPS to extend custody time limits in cases where trials have been delayed for a lack of barristers.
Judges faced with these applications have had to decide whether the unavailability of barristers to progress the trial constitutes a good and sufficient cause to extend a defendant’s custody time limit. Many judges have come down on the side of the defendant and refused these applications, resulting in the release of defendants from prison to await their trial on bail. However, the High Court has recently ruled that Crown Court judges have ‘erred in law in concluding that the unavailability of counsel could not constitute a sufficient cause for extending the custody time limit’. As a result, Crown Court judges will be far more likely to grant CTL extensions when the trial is delayed because of the industrial action.