The Criminal Procedure Rules relating to the use of intermediaries have been amended via new legislation that came into force on 5 April. The amendments follow a consultation by the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee last year.

The new rules clarify the situation in respect of intermediaries being appointed to assist defendants as well as witnesses, whenever it is necessary to support the effective participation of a defendant in any part of their trial.

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Commenting on the report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“For all its claimed emphasis on following the evidence, this complacent report turns a blind eye to the grossly disproportionate outcomes for Black people both in prison and on their journey to it. By contrast, The Lammy report of 2017, commissioned by a Tory Prime Minister from a prominent Labour politician, gave a compelling and authoritative account of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. The majority of its recommendations remain unimplemented, and the government’s current proposals on sentencing, by its own assessment,  will make the problem worse. Blithe optimism is no substitute for the clear eyed analysis and hard work needed to change a system  that discriminates from beginning to end.”

Click here to read more about the Prison Reform Trust's work on tackling racial disparities in the criminal justice system

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Writing for the i our Head of Research, Dr Kimmett Edgar outlines the extraordinary conditions that people in prison have been held in during the last 12 months, and questions why the government are intent on introducing new sentencing measures which even its own minister admits are unevidenced.

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The pandemic: One year on

24/03/2021 09:00:00

Today marks a year since the announcement that prisons in England and Wales were to temporarily close to visitors, following government instructions for people to stay at home.

At that time, few could have imagined that the dramatic restrictions, introduced to safeguard against the predicted widespread loss of life in prisons, would still be in place a year on.

Our CAPPTIVE project, created in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, has heard from hundreds of people in prison about the reality of daily life and near total isolation behind cell doors for the last 12 months.

The stoicism and solidarity between prisoners and staff, often under intolerable pressures, have provided light in the darkness. But nothing can dull the pain of full days spent in isolation and inactivity.

No-one yet knows what the lasting damage to people’s mental and physical health of that unprecedented regime will be. As the lockdown in prisons has stretched on— whilst the wider community outside looks ahead to the easing of restrictions—those in prison remain fearful and unsure of what the future holds.

Prisons will face huge challenges as they work to re-establish normal regimes. But one thing the pandemic has shown is that rehabilitation and public safety don’t come from locking people up in 9 by 6ft cells all day, every day. These come only from a way of life in prison that allows relationships between staff and prisoners to form and for trust to be built.

As we mark this most unhappy of anniversaries the Prison Reform Trust remains here for people in prison and their families at this extraordinary time, and will continue to be there for as long as it takes.

You can find out more about our work during the pandemic by clicking here.

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Commenting on the findings of today’s (16 March) thematic report on race equality by HM Inspectorate of Probation, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“Different elements of the criminal justice system have regressed in their efforts to tackle race discrimination, despite the clearest possible roadmap for change from the Lammy report, and an apparent acceptance by the government of the need to either ‘explain or reform’.  This report highlights the urgent need for a renewed focus on tackling racial disparities across criminal justice agencies. The frequent assertion that we have the finest system of justice in the world simply doesn’t match up to the reality exposed by this and other inspection findings.”

This important report confirms the conclusion reached by Beverley Thompson OBE, writing in the Prison Reform Trust’s Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile, that the prison and probation service has regressed in its efforts to tackle racial disparities. Click here to read.

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The Prison Reform Trust, as part of a coalition of criminal justice and race equality organisations, has written to the Prime Minster warning that the government’s plans for policing and sentencing will further entrench racial inequality in the criminal justice system.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill entered parliament last week, and will be debated by ministers on Monday 15 and Tuesday 16 March. It contains a number of proposals which the government has conceded will have a disproportionate impact on Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in equality assessments.

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The Prison Reform Trust has published a briefing on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill as the House of Commons prepares to debate its proposals for the first time on Monday 15 March.

This Bill continues the long legacy of inflationary sentencing proposals in England and Wales begun in the 1990s. Far from being the simplification of sentencing claimed, the Bill adds to the piecemeal and confusing history of sentencing legislation of which the government claims to be so critical.

Click here to download a copy of the briefing.

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Commenting on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill introduced to Parliament today, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Yet again we face the depressing spectacle of a government using sentencing legislation to play politics. Sentences for serious crime have been getting much longer for two decades now, turning our prisons into places of despair. But there is not a shred of evidence to show that this runaway inflation in punishment reduces crime.

“Hard cases make bad law, and this confused bill repeats the mistakes of so much other politically inspired legislation with calamitous results. It will blight the lives of people living and working in prisons long after the temporary electoral considerations which inspired it have been forgotten.”

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International Women's Day

08/03/2021 11:54:00

Today is International Women’s Day. PRT has long called for a reduction in the unnecessary imprisonment of women in the UK and a step change in how the criminal justice system responds to the needs of women. Read more about what we are doing to hold the government to account for implementation of its Female Offender strategy here.

Our five year National Lottery funded ‘TransformingLives: reducing women’s imprisonment’ programme has recently come an end, but you can access all the related resources here.

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The Prison Reform Trust hosted a webinar on Friday 19 February to share the findings of our new report, No Life, No Freedom, No Future, highlighting the experiences of prisoners recalled under the sentence of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP).

For those that missed the event the webinar can be viewed on YouTube by clicking here, and the accompanying slides can be viewed by clicking here.

Many thanks to our speakers Peter Dawson, Dr Mia Harris, Dr Kimmett Edgar, Russell Webster and Marc Conway, as well as everyone who attended.

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