WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
April 12 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Criminal Justice system ineffective at delivering justice, remand statistics show

Criminal Justice system ineffective at delivering justice, remand statistics show

Pic by Andy Aitchison from Proof magazine (HMP Winchester)

A recent article by criminal justice watchdog Fair Trial shows that the number of people being held on remand in England and Wales is at its highest level for over 50 years, according to figures published by the Ministry of Justice.

The Ministry of Justice’s publication reports on the prison population on the 30th of September 2022 compared to the same point in 2021. A rise of 3% to 81,309 has been observed in the total prison population yet the number of those in remand experienced a 12% increase during this period. Within this 12% statistic, the ‘untried’ population has increased by 15% and the number of those convicted but not yet sentenced has increased by 5%. A Freedom of Information request by Fair Trials has shown that almost 1,800 people have to wait for more than a year for a trial and more than 500 have to wait for longer than two years.

The increases have been attributed to only a partial court recovery since COVID-19 restrictions, as well as strike action by the Criminal Bar Association in September 2022.

Fair Trials Senior Legal and Policy Officer Griff Ferris says that these latest figures are 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’.

There are concerns that the ineffectiveness of the system is also demonstrated by the fact that many people who are held on remand will not face any further time in custody following trial. In 2021, 21% of those held in remand were not sent to prison and 1 in 10 were subsequently acquitted at trial.

The article also shows disproportionate rates of remand between black and white defendants. In 2021, 47% of black defendants were remanded in custody compared to 37% of white defendants during Crown Court proceedings. Despite this, black people are more likely to be acquitted at trial than white people and more likely not to be sent to prison.

On June 24th 2021, Fair Trial published a report detailing individual accounts of more than 20 people who are on remand or have recently been remanded in either custody or prison, awaiting trial during the COVID-19 pandemic. One individual, Agnes, has been on remand for almost 9 months and said she is ‘considering pleading guilty in order to get my freedom back and to get out of extended remand time’. She feels as though she has ‘lost [her] anchor to life’.

An article in the Independent shows these are not exaggerated claims. While the remand population makes up 16% of the total prison population, over 40% of self-inflicted deaths occurred among inmates who are awaiting their trial or sentencing hearing.

Stephen Davies, a criminal defence lawyer, says that ‘it’s the delay and uncertainty that’s quite literally killing people’.