New data demonstrates that black defendants face a 70% longer wait time in prison, both before trial and while awaiting sentencing, compared to their white counterparts.
According to the figures from the Guardian and Liberty Investigates, black prisoners spent an average of 302 days in remand last year, significantly surpassing the average of 177 days for white remand prisoners. The data further revealed that defendants from all minority ethnic backgrounds faced considerably longer wait times in prison compared to their white counterparts.
In 2022, mixed-race prisoners spent an average of 272 days on remand, while Asian prisoners experienced an average remand period of 262 days. The racial disparity in remand durations has been steadily increasing, as previously highlighted in a joint investigation conducted by the Guardian and Liberty Investigates.
While black individuals are more likely to be held in prison for extended periods before trial and sentencing, research suggests that they are also “far more likely” to be acquitted compared to white defendants.
Fair Trials conducted a study that revealed 14% of the 3,478 black individuals remanded in custody in 2021 were acquitted at trial. In contrast, only 8% of the 17,538 white individuals remanded in custody during the same period were subsequently acquitted.
One black man held in remand for 10 months was acquitted of am aggravated burglary charge at trial. ‘I knew I was innocent… I thought I’d be released under investigation. When they told me I was being remanded, I was just like, how? I was confused – you can’t really process it,’ he said. During most of his time in prison, he was “spending 23-and-a-half hours in a cell, only coming out 30 minutes a day.” 85% of prisoners last year were locked in cells for 23 hours, meeting the United Nation’s definition of torture.
The recently released data also exposes a concerning trend of lengthening remand periods for prisoners of all ethnicities, which can be attributed to the challenges faced by the justice system in dealing with court backlogs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2015, the average number of days spent on remand for all prisoners was 128, but this number has now risen to 207.
According to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice, the remand population in late 2022 reached its highest level in 50 years.
Griff Ferris, the senior legal and policy officer at Fair Trials, expressed grave concern over the data. ‘These latest shocking figures lay bare the racism and injustice hard-wired into the criminal justice system. Black defendants are again being treated significantly worse than white defendants, and held in prison awaiting trial. This is despite the government’s own figures showing that black defendants are more likely to be acquitted at trial, as well as more likely to not be sent to prison after being held on remand,’ he stated.