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England and Wales: FOI reveals almost 1,800 people in pre-trial detention for over a year
A freedom of information (FOI request) by Fair Trials provides insight into the continuing breakdown of the justice system and the plight of thousands of people held in prison awaiting trial. The key findings show:
- Almost 1,800 people have been held on remand for longer than a year, and more than 500 people have been held longer than two years.
- More than half of those held on remand for more than six months are held for non-violent offences.
- Black people still being disproportionately remanded more than white people, despite being less likely to be sent to prison and more likely to be acquitted at trial.
- The case backlog remains at almost 60,000 cases awaiting trial.
Griff Ferris, Fair Trials Senior Legal and Policy Officer said:
“There’s no justice in a system that imprisons people awaiting trial for months and years, while many will walk free after trial. There’s no justice in a system where Black people are repeatedly remanded in custody more than white people, despite being more likely to be acquitted at trial or not receive a prison sentence.
“The answer to these deep-rooted injustices and prejudice lies in community resolutions, decriminalisation and releasing people from custody, rather than the current government’s agenda of bringing in new criminal laws and giving police and criminal justice authorities more powers.”
Latest remand figures
The number of people held on remand overall at June 2022 was 13,409 people. This includes both untried and unsentenced people (convicted but awaiting sentencing). The number of people held on remand awaiting trial (untried) at June 2022 was 8,763 people. A huge number of convicted but unsentenced people are now held on remand, amounting to 4,646 people. The untried remand population rose 4% between June 2021 and June 2022. The unsentenced remand population rose by 8% over the same time.
3,879 people (27% of total) held on remand have been held for longer than six months.
1,777 people (13%) have been held for longer than a year, and 533 people have been held for longer than two years.
More than half (54%) of people held for longer than six months are being held for non-violent offences.
These figures also show an increase in extended remand times since previous figures from June 2021, which were also obtained and published by Fair Trials. In June 2021, 1,523 people had been held on remand for more than a year, and 475 people had been held on remand for more than two years.
Many people held on remand will walk free
Many people who are held on remand will walk free after trial. In 2021, more than one in five people (21%) were not sent to prison after being held on remand, and one in ten people held on remand were subsequently acquitted at trial.
(Ministry of Justice statistics recorded 33,059 people held on remand. 7,046 of those people were not sent to prison following their trial, and 3,196 were acquitted at trial).
Black defendants much more likely to be remanded than white defendants
Black people are disproportionately remanded in custody more than white people, despite being more likely to be acquitted and less likely to be sent to prison at trial
In 2021, 47% of Black defendants (3,478 out of 7,431 overall) were remanded in custody during Crown Court proceedings, compared to 37 per cent of white defendants (17,538 out of 47,107 overall).
This is despite Black people being more likely to be acquitted at trial than white people after being held on remand, as well as more likely not to be sent to prison after trial following being held on remand.
In 2021, 3,478 Black people were remanded in custody, of which 482 (14%) were acquitted and 848 (24%) did not receive an immediate custodial sentence. In 2021, 17,538 white people were remanded in custody, of which 1,460 (8%) were acquitted, and 3,438 (19%) did not receive an immediate custodial sentence.
The same disproportionate rates of remand, acquittal and sentencing were also found in 2019 and 2020.
Backlog of cases awaiting trial remains at almost 60,000
The backlog of cases in the Crown Court still stands at almost 60,000 cases, with 58,300 cases awaiting trial at the end of May 2021. The Ministry of Justice say they will be spending £477 million to reduce that backlog by just 5,000 cases to 53,000 in 2025.
The vast majority, almost 40,000, existed before the pandemic, after the government closed half the courts across England and Wales and sold a third between 2010 and 2020, and cut funding to other key areas, including legal aid.