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Highest number of people on remand in England and Wales for over 50 years
The number of people being held on remand in England and Wales is at its highest for over 50 years, according to official figures published by the Ministry of Justice, with many people being held for years awaiting trial.
As of 30 September 2022, there were 14,507 people being held on remand. This represents a 12% increase in the remand population in the last year, since 30 September 2021. During that time, the ‘untried’ population increased by 15% and the ‘convicted unsentenced’ population increased by 5%. A quarter of those held on remand are being held in relation to non-violent drugs offences.
Freedom of Information requests by Fair Trials has also found that almost 2000 people have been held awaiting trial for longer than a year, with hundreds held for longer than two years.
Griff Ferris, Fair Trials Senior Legal and Policy Officer said:
“These latest figures are further evidence that the criminal justice system in England and Wales is broken. There is no justice in a system that holds people without trial for years, while many will walk free after trial. There is no justice in a system where black people are repeatedly remanded in custody more than white people.
“Rather than address these issues, the government is instead choosing to bring in new criminal laws and giving police and criminal justice authorities more power to criminalise people and restrict their freedoms.
“This crisis and the deep-rooted injustice and prejudice can only be dealt with by structural changes to our current system. We need community resolutions, de-criminalisation and a push to release people from custody, rather than the current government’s agenda of finding more ways to criminalise and imprison people.”
Backlog of cases reaches almost 75,000
Earlier this month, the Director of Public Prosecutions for England Wales, Max Hill told the house of Commons Justice Committee that the backlog of cases was almost 75,000, higher than the figure of 70,200 from August 2020 when courts were closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Over 500 people held for longer than two years without trial
The response to a Fair Trials’ freedom of information request has showed that as of 30 June 2022:
- 3,879 people were held on remand have been held for longer than 6 months. That’s more than a quarter of the overall remand population.
- 1777 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 6 months are being held for non-violent offences.
Many people held on remand will walk free
Many people who are held on remand will walk free after trial. In 2021, more than 1 in 5 people (21%) were not sent to prison after being held on remand, and 1 in 10 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 are much more likely to be remanded than white defendants
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 the same year, 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.
Hopelessness of remand leading to rising suicides
The uncertainty and extended periods in prison on remand awaiting trial are contributing to shocking increases in suicides amongst remand prisoners, remand inmates accounting for more than 40 per cent of suicides in prison in 2020-2021, despite only being 16 per cent of the prison population. The rates were also double the previous year.
Fair Trials report, Locked up in Lockdown: life on remand during the pandemic, contained first-hand accounts from people held on remand over the last two years, detailing how extreme the conditions have been, including reports of self-harm and suicide.