WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
April 11 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
Search
Close this search box.

‘Poor quality decision-making’ by Magistrates leading to unnecessary imprisonment of people on remand

‘Poor quality decision-making’ by Magistrates leading to unnecessary imprisonment of people on remand

One in five people in prison in England are currently being held before trial or sentencing. This is up from one in nine people being held in prison on remand in 2019.

Decisions in Magistrates court are marked by ‘poor quality decision-making’, sometimes in hearings as short as two minutes, according to a new report by charity Justice. They say Magistrates are undermining fairness and elevating the risk of unnecessary custodial remand.

The legal reform charity has exposed systemic shortcomings in the remand decision-making processes, suggesting a direct impact on the escalating crisis of prison overcrowding.

The charity’s investigation points to a lack of adherence to the existing legal requirements when determining remand decisions, exacerbating an already stretched prison system.

While bail is only supposed to be denied in particular circumstances, the remand population in England has surged to a record high of 16,000 people, with one in five individuals currently behind bars awaiting trial or sentencing.

Justice’s report looked into 742 magistrates court hearings, revealing alarming inadequacies in decision-making. Four out of five decisions regarding remand in custody or imposing bail conditions failed to reference relevant laws and provide comprehensive reasoning, as mandated by the Bail Act 1976.

The report also suggested the presence of biases related to race, nationality, and the use of video links or secure docks. These biases, sometimes unrelated to the actual risk posed by the defendant, were found to significantly impact decisions regarding bail. The court are more likely to grant unconditional bail to white defendants accused of serious crimes. Non-white defendants accused of low to moderate severity offenses were remanded in custody 31% of the time, despite the stringent criteria for custodial remand outlined in the Bail Act.

Fiona Rutherford, Chief Executive of Justice, expressed her concerns over the lack of adherence to basic legal procedures, emphasising the life-altering consequences of detaining individuals not yet tried or convicted. Rutherford highlights the potential fallout, including job loss, homelessness, and severed family connections, urging for corrective action.

The Ministry of Justice has not commented in the light of these revelations.