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Press release: Fair Trials calls for release of more remand prisoners after inspectorates report highlights courts backlog

Article by Fair Trials
  • Fair Trials calls for release of more remand prisoners after report reveals that one in seven people in prison in England and Wales are waiting for a trial.
  • The report acknowledges that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing issues within criminal justice.
  • Both long-term investment and structural solutions are needed to address the crisis within the criminal justice system.

Fair Trials has called for more remand prisoners to be released, following the publication of a report into the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on criminal justice in England and Wales.

The joint report by the inspectorates for policing, prosecutions, prisons and probation shows that the number of people who are in prison while waiting for a trial has risen by 22% to over 12,000, the highest annual figure for six years. This means that one in seven people in prison are waiting for a trial to test their innocence.

Griff Ferris, Legal and Policy Officer at Fair Trials said:

A decade of chronic under-resourcing of the criminal justice system has led to the devastating consequences for fair and equal justice that have been acknowledged in this damning report.

Victims and defendants are being denied justice by trial backlogs that stretch far into 2023, and the presumption of innocence is completely undermined by the fact that over 12,000 people are currently being held in prison without trial or conviction.

The government must provide long-term investment for the justice system and implement structural solutions, including reducing prosecutions for minor or non-violent offences, prioritising community sentences over short sentences, and releasing more people held on remand awaiting trials.

In September, the Government extended Custody Time Limits (CTLs) – the amount of time that someone can be held on remand – from six to eight months. As Fair Trials pointed out at the time, delaying justice has a negative impact for all involved – victims, witnesses and the accused.

The Government s own risk assessment revealed that keeping people on remand longer disproportionately affects people from Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, but they pushed ahead with the extension.

Fair Trials has issued freedom of information requests to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to find out how many people were being held awaiting trial for excessive periods under CTLs, but they said they did not hold this information.

Notes to Editors

Fair Trials report, Justice under Lockdown includes the findings of a survey of criminal justice professionals on how COVID-19 had impacted fair trial rights in England & Wales, including evidence that Custody Time Limits are being extended as a matter of routine.

For more information, contact Pam Cowburn, pam.cowburn@fairtrials.net