Our client, charged with Trafficking Drugs of Dependence in a Commercial Quantity, Handling Stolen Goods and Dealing with Proceeds of Crime, had been remanded in custody following an unsuccessful bail application made prior to the escalation of the covid-19 pandemic.
In the days after our client was refused bail, a number of significant changes to the criminal justice system had been implemented, which had a significant impact on our client’s situation. To reduce risk of spread of the virus, our client was no longer able to access training courses or treatment programs in prison, nor was he able to receive any visits from friends or family. This made his prison experience far more difficult than usual. In addition, the Magistrates’ Court and County Court had significantly scaled back the volume and type of cases being heard. This had resulted in our client facing a very lengthy delay before his case could be heard.
Due to these ‘new facts and circumstances’, he was entitled to make a further application for bail before the Court and was eventually granted bail with stringent conditions. He can now await trial (likely to be two and a half years after arrest) in the community. The changes to his situation as a result of the covid-19 pandemic were important factors in the Court’s decision to grant bail.
It is important to keep in mind that, even though we are seeing fewer cases of covid-19 in the community, the risk of clusters developing is still real. We should assume that the restrictions on prison visits and access to programs will continue for some time, so as to minimize risk of a prison cluster. The sheer volume of cases that were, and are continuing to be, adjourned will have a longstanding impact on court listings.
These issues will continue to be critical to the questions of sentencing and bail for the foreseeable future.