Wolverhampton Crown Court had erred in allowing an extension of custody time limits in relation to four men accused of drugs offences.Application for judicial review of the decisions of Wolverhampton Crown Court ('W') on 1 May 2003 to allow the extension of custody time limits ('CTL') in respect of the claimants. All four claimants, along with two others, had been accused initially of supplying and later of conspiring to supply Class A drugs. The case against them was in large part based on videotapes allegedly showing them selling drugs to undercover police officers. The claimants were remanded in custody. Directions were given that the prosecution evidence was to be served by 20 December 2002 with a plea and directions hearing on 17 January 2003. However, there was delay and the claimants had not received copies of edited versions of the video evidence by the latter date and so were not in a position to plead at the hearing. Further directions were therefore given that copies of the video tapes were to be supplied to the claimants by 13 February 2003. However, the evidence was not sent until 18 February 2003 and as a result the claimants contended that they were not properly prepared to plead at a plea and directions hearing arranged for 21 February 2003. The plea and directions hearing was adjourned until 13 March 2003 at which the claimants pleaded not guilty. The earliest trial date at the time was 28 May 2003 but the claimants' CTL's ran out on 1 May 2003. Accordingly, the prosecution made an application to extend the CTL's ('the first CTL hearing'). That application was refused on the basis that there was no good and sufficient cause to extend and the prosecution had not acted with all due diligence and expedition in accordance with s.22(3) Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. The decision as regards s.22(3) was in part as a result of the five day delay in the disclosure of the video evidence but was not limited to that factor. By chance it was then discovered that a trial could in fact be listed for 28 April 2003 thus avoiding the CTL problem but the date was later vacated and fixed for 19 May 2003 owing to pressure on the court system. The prosecution then applied again to extend the CTL's ('the second CTL hearing'). That application was allowed on the basis that: (i) although there had been a lack of due diligence and expedition by the prosecution, it had had no effect on the listing date because the case could never have been listed before 28 April 2003 in any event; (ii) the prosecution were in no way responsible for the vacation of that date; and (iii) the difficulties faced by the court in finding a venue comprised a good and sufficient reason to extend the CTL's. On the present application the claimants argued that the judge at the second CTL had (a) proceeded on the basis that the only way in which the prosecution had failed to act with all due diligence and expedition was in respect of the five day delay in disclosing the video evidence whereas it was clear that there were other factors; (b) wrongly concluded that the case could not have been heard prior to 28 April 2003 no matter when or how early the plea and directions hearing had been heard; and (c) therefore erred in law and acted unreasonably.HELD: (1) The approach of the judge at the second CTL was not free from error. (2) He had accepted the earlier finding of a lack of due diligence and expedition but misunderstood the ambit of it by failing to appreciate factors other than the five day delay. (3) Whilst the judge had investigated the listings position regarding what would have happened if the plea and directions hearing had taken place on 13 March 2003, in fact he should have investigated what would have happened if it had taken place by 17 January 2003 or 1 February 2003. Such an investigation would have shown that there was an available trial date on 7 April 2003 at that time. (4) The judge's decision was vitiated by the above factors and the CTL's should not have been extended.Applications allowed.
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