Children: Innocent until proven guilty

In this report the Prison Reform Trust examines why remand is being over-used for under-18 year olds in England and Wales and suggests practical  ways in which the numbers can be reduced.

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lacking conviction: the rise of the women's remand population

This report presents clear evidence that some of our most vulnerable and socially excluded women are being failed by a range of agencies. It sets out an agenda for changes in policy and practice within and outside the criminal justice system.

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Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Innocent until proven guilty: tackling the overuse of custodial remand

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill contains provisions to address the unnecessary use of custodial remand. Detaining people pre-trial on charges which would not lead to a prison sentence is disproportionate, damaging, and wasteful of public funds.

Read our latest briefing on custodial remand here.

People on remand: key facts

In 2009, 55,207 people were remanded into custody to await trial. In the same year 37,003 people were remanded into prison convicted but awaiting sentence.

In 2007, 11,400 people remanded in custody were subsequently acquitted.

In 2008-09, 4,963 children under 18 were remanded in custody. Of these, 985 spent between one and six months in custody on remand; 194 between six and 12 months; and four were held on remand in custody between 12 months and three years.

In 2009, an estimated 1,792 children who were remanded in custody were subsequently acquitted or given a non-custodial sentence.

An acquitted defendant is not automatically entitled to compensation, and it has been the exception rather than the rule for any compensation to be payable.

The average waiting time for those remanded into custody awaiting cases committed for trial at the crown court was 12.3 weeks. This is up from 10.1 weeks in 2001.

Just under two-thirds of people received into prison on remand awaiting trial are accused of non-violent offences. In 2009, 12% were remanded into custody for theft and handling of stolen goods.

In the year up to the end of March 2011 the number of women on remand increased 5% to 783. Women on remand make up 18% of the female prison population.

One fifth of children in custody in England and Wales are locked up on remand – approximately 600 at any one time. The number of children imprisoned on remand has increased by 41% since 2000.

As at 1 April 2009 the average cost of placing a young person remanded to custody in a Secure Training Centre was £160,000 per annum (excluding VAT).

According to research by the Office for National Statistics, more than a quarter of men on remand have attempted suicide at some stage
in their life.
For women remand prisoners the figure is even higher. More than 40% have attempted suicide before entering prison.

Remand prisoners have a range of mental health problems. According to the Office for National Statistics more than three-quarters of men on
remand suffer from a personality disorder. One in 10 have a functional psychosis and more than half experience depression. For women on remand, nearly two-thirds suffer from depression. Once again these figures are higher than for sentenced prisoners. Research has found that 9% of remand prisoners require immediate transfer to the NHS.

Remand prisoners, 16% of the prison population, accounted for 38% of self-inflicted deaths in 2009.

Research by the Prison Reform Trust found that prisons are failing to equip remand prisoners to prepare for trial. The study found that only 48% of prison libraries in jails holding remand prisoners stocked the standard legal texts that under Prison Service regulations they must provide.

Remand prisoners receive no financial help from the Prison Service at the point of release. They are also not eligible for practical support with resettlement from the Probation Service, even though they can be held on remand for as long as 12 months.

A tragic young death

Twenty year old John (not his real name) had been in a young offenders remand centre for just over a week. He had been moved from an adult prison where he had been held for two months on remand.

John had been accused of a string of motoring offences. But he had been remanded into custody awaiting trial because he was considered a possible danger to the community. This was because when officers had arrived at his family home to arrest him, he had held them off for thirty hours in a siege involving the police firearms unit, following a report that he might have a gun.

It was mid-morning in January and John found himself alone in his shared cell in the young offenders remand centre, he was very unsettled. His cellmate was attending a physical education course.
view of a prison yard seen through a hole in a fence
He was feeling particularly desperate and depressed. Some time later that morning he was found hanging suspended from the cell window by a bed sheet.

When John first arrived at the young offenders remand centre he was very unsettled. He had a history of depression and in the past had taken two overdoses. He complained about the staff and was placed in the hospital wing under CCTV observation.

After a peaceful first night he was placed on a normal wing but was under regular observation. A week later he was taken off suicide watch. Twenty four hours later he was dead.

In July an inquest jury returned a verdict that John killed himself when the balance of his mind was disturbed. His family say they cannot understand why he was taken off suicide watch. They want more answers and are considering suing the Prison Service.


Abby's story

Abby (not her real name) was 34 years old when she was charged with armed robbery and remanded into custody. She had not been in custody previously and had been in employment until a year previously when she was signed off sick with an eating disorder. She had a four year old child who lived with her, and was three months pregnant.

Abby had been using heroin but at the point of arrest was on a prescribed methadone programme. At her first appearance bail was refused on the grounds that she may fail to surrender and may commit further offences, despite her address being verified and surety offered. The second application was refused on the same grounds. The third application for bail was heard by a High Court Judge who again refused bail but said that bail would be considered if a hostel placement was found.

Abby became very distraught and emotionally disturbed due to her imprisonment. There had been no clear evidence to suggest that she would fail to surrender or commit further offences. On the fourth application, again to a High Court judge, she was bailed to hostel accommodation having spent a month in custody.