Thu, 22 Mar 2012
R (McAuley) v Coventry Crown Court (2012) EWHC 680 Admin, 20 March 2012
Clark McAuley was in custody awaiting his trial. A crown court judge extended the time he was to remain in custody (known as custody time limits or CTL), because the court could not accommodate his trial. One of the reasons this was done was because there was no court room available to try the case.
In emergency judicial review proceedings launched on Mr McAuley's behalf, and later heard by the President of the Queen’s Division, Sir John Thomas, and Mr Justice Silber, the High Court quashed the extension of the custody time limit and declared Mr McAuley's subsequent detention unlawful. The court also ordered a separate hearing at which the amount of damages (including aggravated and exemplary damages) to be awarded to Mr McAuley will be assessed.
The case was treated as extremely important by the Court because the arguments advanced on behalf of the Claimant concerned the potential impact on the right to liberty of limited allocation of resources to courts. Arguments concerning the impact of public funding constraints on rights of ordinary people are being regularly tested in the courts in these times of austerity. This however is believed to be the first significant case in which such arguments have been developed in relation to the right to liberty in a criminal context since the public spending squeeze.
The case is also important because the court re-issued guidelines issued in previous cases for the circumstances in which custody time limits could be extended and emphasised the need for careful management and provision of detailed information to presiding judges at Crown Courts whose task it is to ensure that custody time limits (CTL) are properly managed. The Court said:
“It is clear from the evidence adduced before us that the claimant was right in his primary contention that there had been a systemic failure to manage the budget and to apply the correct principles…… The systemic failure was a failure to ensure that adherence to budgets did not, save in highly exceptional circumstances, have the consequence that routine cases with a CTL were not heard within that time limit.”
The Court’s guidance is required reading for all criminal advocates.