Reporting by The Observer has revealed one in three of the pregnant women currently held in UK prisons is being held on remand, not yet having been tried for the crimes they have been charged with.
The data, obtained via a Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Justice, is of particular concern to those who have been calling for an end to the imprisonment of pregnant women. Following the deaths of two babies in custody since 2019 there have been growing concerns about the safety of this practice. In many countries pregnant women are not given custodial sentences.
As reported by The Justice Gap, an inquest into the death of a baby, Aisha Cleary, in HMP Bronzefield in 2019 was found to have been a result of ‘serious failures’ by prison staff by a coroner. A woman who gave birth to a still-born baby while she was detained in HMP Styal in June 2020 said she would ‘never forgive’ the prison.
On the anniversary of the death of Aisha Cleary this September, campaign groups No Birth Behind Bars and Level Up held a vigil outside the Ministry of Justice to commemorate her death and renew their calls for an end to the imprisonment of expectant mothers.
The groups say: ‘The cruelties pregnant women face in prison are only possible because they are held from public view’. Level Up have announced that they will continue a ‘campaign of public solidarity’ until the law is changed, and that other countries have stopped sending pregnant women to prison so ‘there is nothing stopping England from doing the same’.
In September 2023 the Sentencing Council opened a public consultation as to whether they should introduce pregnancy as a new mitigating factor when reaching sentencing decisions.