Partner Michael Sophocleous comments in The Canary in relation to custody extensions resulting in more guilty pleas.

 

Michael’s comments were published in The Canary, 13 October 2020, and can be found here.

“New legislation has extended the time a defendant can be held in custody on remand to 238 days. But there are concerns this will lead to innocent people pleading guilty.

The proposed changes by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) were approved within 48 hours despite the MOJ admitting that there had been no consultation process or formal guidance. The temporary extension came into effect on 28 September and will last for nine months. It is designed to deal with the backlog of cases within the criminal justice system caused by coronavirus (Covid-19)…

Criminal defence solicitor Michael Sophocleous told The Canary:

‘Whilst Covid-19 has certainly contributed to delays in the administration of justice, the root cause of the current problem is years of underfunding and crippling cuts to an already broken criminal justice system.’

Sophocleous continued:

‘The further two months will have no meaningful impact in reducing the current backlog of cases. The system needs a radical solution to address the lack of court space and the lack of Judiciary able to hear cases; and whilst there are some Nightingale Courts in operation, the full time use of these Courts will not even bring us back to the deficient pre-covid levels of service.

Defendants have a right to the timely administration of justice and the extension of custody time limits will only be to their detriment, whilst giving the Prosecution more time to prepare their case and failing to address the root cause of the backlog.’

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