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HomeNewsCourt delays imposed after pressure on prison places

Court delays imposed after pressure on prison places

The operation means some defendants may have to remain in a police cell for extra nights before there is capacity to take them to a magistrates’ court, and then on to an available prison cell.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman admitted magistrates and police were notified late last night due to extreme pressure on the prison system, although he said there was a lot of movement in and out of prisons.

When asked whether any defendants would be bailed as a result, he said that would be a police decision based on risk.

He told the BBC: “To manage this demand we have brought on thousands of extra places at pace and will introduce strategic oversight of the transfer of remanded offenders from police custody to magistrate courts to maintain the running of the justice system.

“This government is categorical that dangerous offenders should stay behind bars, which is why new laws will keep rapists locked up for every day of their prison sentence and ensure life means life for the most horrific murderers.”

Tom Franklin, chief executive of the Magistrates’ Association, said they were “very concerned about these further delays”.

He said: “Every case that is delayed has real-life consequences for victims, witnesses and defendants – and leads to magistrates and court staff sitting around waiting, rather than administering justice.

“That is a waste of resources, at a time when there are already large backlogs.”

The Criminal Law Solicitors Association said: “We are appalled of the state of our criminal justice system and have been campaigning on this from our inception and whilst we recognise the need for some action, this is a symptom of a systemic problem caused by more than 40 years of neglect of our criminal justice system.

“It demonstrates the parlous state of the criminal justice system and the need for an injection of more resources at every stage of the justice process.”

Government officials say the pandemic is partly to blame, because it led to an increase in the number of people being held in prisons for longer, awaiting jury trial.

Using the mechanism being activated on Wednesday morning is not unprecedented, but it is acknowledged by those in government to be a significant move in response to a difficult situation.

The operation was previously triggered in the north of England for a week at the end of March.

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