New protocol for the effective handling of custody time limit cases in the magistrates' and the crown court


As of 3 September 2020, following publication of a Direction from the president of the Queen’s Bench Division and the Senior Presiding Judge, the Custody Time Limit (CTL) Protocol has been withdrawn.

Find out more about the Direction

The Covid-19 outbreak presents an unprecedented challenge for the criminal justice system in England and Wales.

The scale and seriousness of the situation presents significant difficulties to the criminal court process and means it cannot operate in the way it does normally.

The purpose of this Protocol is to set a temporary framework during the Coronavirus pandemic for the efficient and expeditious handling of cases that involve a Custody Time Limit (CTL).

It does not create legal obligations or restrictions on (any) party. Unless stated otherwise this protocol applies to both magistrates’ courts and Crown Court cases.

The Protocol will be reviewed monthly by the senior presiding judge who will determine when it will cease.

There is a joint duty on HM Courts & Tribunals Service (HMCTS) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to ensure that whenever possible cases in which defendants are awaiting trial are dealt with within the CTLs set out in section 22 Prosecution of Offences Act 1985 and the Prosecution of Offences (Custody Time Limits) Regulations 1987.

In the circumstances created by the Coronavirus pandemic it may not be possible for trials to take place within the CTLs and this protocol sets out some of the considerations and processes to be used in such cases.

The CPS and HMCTS will share lists of current CTL cases and CTL expiry dates every two weeks/monthly so that CTL cases can be kept under review by all parties to this Protocol.

This Protocol does not override independent judicial discretion and every case must be decided on its own merits. The Protocol contains rules of practice only and the relevant law is unaffected. The judge responsible for deciding each application will apply the law.