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The role of adult custodial remand in the criminal justice system inquiry launched

4 March 2022

The Justice Committee has launched a new inquiry into the role of adult custodial remand in the criminal justice system.

Courts will send someone to prison ahead of trial for a number of reasons, including if they believe the defendant may miss the court hearing, commit a crime while on bail or the crime they are charged with is serious, for example armed robbery. Custodial remand includes people awaiting trial and those who have been convicted but are awaiting sentencing.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of defendants placed on custodial remand whilst awaiting trial. At the end of December 2021, the remand population was 12,780, the second highest quarterly figure since 2011. In March 2021, a third of remand prisoners had been held beyond the legal limit ahead of trial. Placing prisoners on remand also increases the pressure on the wider prison system, leading to overcrowding and declining conditions in the prison estate.

This new inquiry will investigate how custodial remand is currently being used and examine whether there is need for reform. It will explore the reasons for the recent increase in its use and the length of time defendants are spending in prison ahead of trial. The Committee will also look at the impact that being placed on remand has on prisoners and the quality of support they receive.

Launching the inquiry, Chair of the Justice Committee Sir Bob Neill said:

“There are good reasons for some to be placed in custody while awaiting trial, for example if they are accused of a violent crime or at risk of absconding. However, we must not forget that many have not yet been convicted of a crime and the restriction of an individual’s liberty should not occur without strong justification.

“We want to understand why the use of custodial remand has grown in recent years and the impact it has had on those subjected to it. The inquiry will also see if the support they are given in prison is sufficient and, given the fact that one in ten will be found not guilty at trial, how this continues on release.”

Terms of reference

The Justice Committee welcomes written submissions on the following questions. More information on how to submit evidence is available here. The deadline for submissions is Friday 22 April.

  • To what extent the legislative framework for determining whether to remand an individual to custody is (a) fit for purpose, and (b) being appropriately applied?
  • Why has the number of people on remand increased since Covid, and what work is being done to address this?
  • Why has there been a disproportionate increase in the population of the convicted unsentenced on remand, compared to the untried population?
  • How long are people being held on remand? What are the implications of people being held for long periods on remand?
  • What data on remand should be collected and published that isn’t already?
  • What effect does the increasing remand population have on the prison population?
  • What support is available for remand prisoners?
  • Whether there are differences in the use of remand in custody between men and women?
  • What alternatives are there to the use of custodial remand (such as more effective tagging)?
  • Some people who are held in custody on remand, will at trial be found not guilty and immediately released. What support is available for this category of people, upon their release from prison?

Further information

Image: UK Parliament/Gabriel Sainhas