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The number of people waiting over six months for a trial is up by 15% in England and Wales

Article by Fair Trials

New figures obtained by Fair Trials show a 15% yearly increase in the number of people being held for longer than the custody time limit of six months. In December 2021, there were 4,185 people being held for longer than six months, with more than half of them held for non-violent offences.

These stats, coupled with a staggering rise in the amount of self-inflicted deaths in prison (+28%) paint a dire picture of life on remand in England and Wales. Following a written question from Alex Cunningham MP, at Fair Trials’ request, justice minister James Cartlidge revealed that:

  • More people are now being held for longer, on every metric – 6 months, a year and even two years – than the previous figures relating to June 2021.
  • 4,185 people are now being held for longer than the custody time limit of 6 months, a 15% increase since December 2020 (3,608 people), and a more than 5% increase on the previous figures from June 2021 (3,949 people).
  • More than half held longer than 6 months are held for non-violent offences. Overall, 2,279 people (54% of 6 months + total) are being held for longer than 6 months for non-violent offences (Theft, drug, public order, miscellaneous crimes against society, fraud, summary non-motoring, summary motoring).
  • 1,624 people (38%) are being held for longer than 6 months for alleged drug offences, including 739 people held longer than a year.
  • 278 people (7%) held longer than 6 months for alleged theft offences, including 118 people held for longer than a year.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice also show a horrific increase in the number of self-inflicted deaths in prison.  In 2021, these rose by 28% to 86 and 37% of those were remand prisoners (up from 28% in 2020).

Griff Ferris, Fair Trials Legal and Policy officer said:

“It’s cruel and unjust to keep people in prison for years awaiting trial.

“These unacceptable delays deny justice for everyone involved, including accused people and victims, while being held for months in these incredibly difficult conditions has a devastating impact on people’s lives and wellbeing, as we can see from the shocking rise of self-harm and suicide rates among remand prisoners.

“In order to address this crisis and the backlog of cases, the government must adopt meaningful, structural solutions, including de-criminalisation and releasing people from remand, rather than trying to find ways to put more people into prison.”

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