London: Extending the amount of time unconvicted defendants can await trial in prison will have a disproportionate impact on people who are black, Asian or from other ethnic minorities, according to official advice handed to ministers. The coronavirus lockdown temporarily halted jury trials in March and despite the government creating “Nightingale” courts there are close to 500,000 cases yet to be heard in magistrates and crown courts in England and Wales. The Ministry of Justice last month temporarily extended the custody time limit for those in prison waiting for crown court trials from 182 to 238 days in an effort to get a grip on the backlogs.
An equality impact statement, drawn up by officials for the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, and quietly published earlier this month, warned there would be a disproportionate impact on black, Asian and minority ethnic people. It states that “defendants who are black, mixed, Chinese or other ethnic groups, males, or children are more likely to be remanded in custody during any point in crown court proceedings”. The statement continues: “Therefore, we consider that temporarily extending the CTL [custody time limit] in the crown court in respect of those awaiting a trial will also disproportionately impact on people with these protected characteristics.” The statement concludes: “We recognise that defendants with the protected characteristics detailed above may experience some disadvantage from a longer period of time held on remand.”
Read more: Jamie Grierson, Guardian, https://is.gd/rTsbgm