Many prisoners on remand are facing a second year in prison as a result of the growing backlog in the courts, according to a legal charity which reported that one in ten prisoners held on remand in England and Wales has been in prison for more than a year.
- Image is from Proof magazine, issue 5, and featured in the Koestler Awards exhibition No Lockdown in the Imagination.
According to a response to a freedom of information request from Fair Trials, 1,523 people have been held in prisons awaiting trial for more than a year which, the group reckons, accounts for 10% of the entire remand population. The number includes 475 people who have been held for more than two years awaiting trial and a total of 3,949 people who have been held for more than the custody time limit which of just sic month. This is a 10% rise since December 2020.
‘Many people who are held on remand will walk free after trial,’ Fair Trial points out. In 2020, one in ten of all those remanded were acquitted at trial, and one in four of those remanded in custody in 2020 were not sent to prison following their trial. The group points out that those remanded in custody are disproportionately from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups.
‘Any system which holds people in prison without trial for years is a cruel, broken system,’ comments Griff Ferris, Fair Trials’ Legal and Policy Officer. ‘Some of these people are now facing a second Christmas behind bars without the opportunity to prove their innocence. Others have been waiting for a trial since before the start of the coronavirus pandemic last March, and even since 2019.’ Ferris said that the ‘unacceptable delays undermine our entire justice system, denying justice for both defendants and victims’ and called for ‘urgent action to implement structural solutions to this crisis, including releasing people from remand, rather than trying to find ways to put more people into prison’.
Fair Trials point out that people held on remand since March 2020 have been subjected to lockdown in prisons and ‘conditions akin to solitary confinement branded “inhumane”’ including being kept in cells for 23 and a half hours a day and sometimes days at a time, with showers and exercise allowed only intermittently. ‘Contact with friends, families and others has been restricted to monthly video-calls, with many unable to speak to their loved ones at all,’ th e group said. .
Fair Trials’ recently published report, Locked up in Lockdown: life on remand during the pandemic, including first-hand accounts from people held on remand. ‘My kids have not seen me in person in over 1 year and I can’t tell them when I’ll be able to see them let alone hug them,’ one prisoner told the group. Another said: ‘I feel remand is used as a tool to increase conviction rate as most people get to the ‘time served’ part and change plea to get out of this hellhole,’ said another.
Support the Justice Gap, buy Proof