Custody time limits

Defining the time limits for an accused in custody awaiting trial

When a person is accused of committing a crime and charged with an offence, they could be remanded in custody or released on bail until their trial begins.

Custody time limits (CTLs) are in place to ensure that unconvicted defendants who are remanded in custody aren’t locked up for too long before their trial starts. CTLs apply to each and every charge and not the offender. Each charge attracts its own CTL.

The different time limits

Section 22 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 (POA 1985), the Prosecution of Offences (CTL) Regulations 1987 and the Criminal Procedure Rules regulate CTLs. The provisions establish the maximum periods of time which an accused can be kept in custody before trial.

The CTL Regulations apply to summary only offences and either way offences to be tried in the magistrates’ court; to indictable offences sent to the Crown Court (indictable only and either way), to voluntary bills and to fresh indictments following an order for a retrial made by the Court of Appeal.

Different periods are applicable depending on whether the offence is summary, triable either way or indictable only.

The current provisions are:

  • 56 days between the first appearance and trial for summary offence;
  • 70 days between the first appearance and summary trial for an offence which is triable either way (the period is reduced to 56 days if the decision for summary trial is taken within 56 days);
  • 182 days if the court allocates a triable either way offence case for Crown Court trial (less any time the defendant has spent in custody of the magistrates’ court prior to sending); or the defendant elects a Crown Court trial and the offence is sent (less any time the defendant has spent in custody of the magistrates’ court in relation to that offence);
  • 182 days between the dates an accused is sent for trial under s 51 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (CDA 1988) for indictable-only offences and the start of trial (less any time spent in custody if remanded by the magistrates’ court).
  • 112 days from the preferment of the Bill if the prosecution is granted a Bill of Indictment under s 2(2)(b) of the Administration of Justice (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1933 by a High Court judge;
  • 112 days following an order by the Court of Appeal for a retrial on a fresh indictment.

When calculating the time limits and their expiry dates, the relevant date for beginning the calculation is the day after the date of first appearance at court.

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For more information on:

  • Young offenders
  • If the custody time limit expires
  • Application for extension