By Clive Coleman
BBC News Legal Correspondent

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  • Coronavirus pandemic

Scales of justice

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image captionTrials for 43,000 defendants are being listed for next year and some for 2022

A judge has claimed he was put under “improper and undue influence” to keep a defendant in custody.

On Tuesday Judge Keith Raynor refused to extend the time a teenager charged with drugs offences could be held in custody before his trial.

Woolwich Crown Court heard Tesfa Young-Williams was charged with serious drug offences last October and had been in custody for 321 days because of delays.

That is 139 days beyond the custody time limit, the judge said.

Refusing a further extension, Judge Raynor ruled that government measures which include the creation of 10 Nightingale courts – temporary courts to help tackle the number of outstanding cases – were slow, not proportionate, lacked funding and that alternative adequately funded measures which would have worked were not adopted.

‘Improper influence’

In a highly unusual move judge Raynor has made public communications with a senior judge in the lead-up to the CTL hearing in the case of Mr Young-Williams.

Judge Raynor said he felt “pressurised into granting the CTL extension application” and “was subjected to improper and undue influence to make a ruling extending the CTL in the case of R v Tesfa Young-Williams”.

The judge has now been told he will not be hearing a custody time limit application in another case.

It will now be dealt with by another judge.

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Judge Raynor’s comments come after it the backlog of Crown Court cases rose by 6,000 to 43,000 since the coronavirus lockdown began in March.

The government expects to have 250 usable jury trial rooms by November, as part of a so-called “criminal courts recovery plan”.

The Ministry of Justice has also pledged an extra 1,600 court staff and £80m towards more Nightingale courts for crime.

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