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 Act 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 the 12 months ending March 2013, 48,584 people were remanded into custody to await  trial. In the same year 35,470 people were remanded into prison convicted but awaiting sentence. This represented a decrease of 11% and 10% respectively from the same time last year.

In the 12 months ending March 2013, 10,900 people remanded in custody were subsequently acquitted. This is significantly lower than in the previous 12 months, however there were 7,400 cases in the Magistrates’ court where the remand category was ‘not known’.

In the 12 months ending March 2013, 13,900 people remanded into custody went on to be given a non-custodial sentence.

The remand population in prison at the end of June 2013 was 10,986, down 3% from the previous year. Within this total, the untried population increased 1% to 7,755 and the convicted unsentenced population decreased 12% to 3,231. This is partly due to measures introduced by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (2012) Act enacted in December 2012, to restrict the use of remand.

On 30 June 2013, 184 children (under 18) in prison (21% of the total child prison population) were on remand, 35% fewer than the previous year.

In 2011-12 there were 3,621 custodial remand episodes given by the courts to children, an increase of 4% from the previous year. 60% of children remanded in 2011/12 went on to be given a non-custodial sentence, including 26% who were acquitted.

Remand prisoners spend an average of nine weeks held in custody awaiting trial and/or sentencing.

In the 12 months ending March 2013, 64% of people received into prison on remand awaiting trial were accused of non-violent offences. 15% were remanded into custody for theft and handling of stolen goods, and 9% for drug offences.

In the past year the number of women on remand has fallen by 5%. On 30 June 2013, 604 women were in prison on remand, making up 16% of the female prison population.

3,631 women entered prison on remand awaiting trial in the 12 months ending March 2013 - a decrease of 13% from the previous year. This comes after an increase of 22% over the period between 2004 and 2008.

Between 2007/08 and 2011/12 use of remand to local authority accommodation, the alternative to custodial remand, fell by 68%. In December 2012, a new legal threshold for remand to youth detention accommodation was introduced, and the secure remand budget was devolved to local authorities. It is anticipated that these changes will reduce use of secure remand, and encourage investment in community alternatives.

In 2013-14 the average cost of placing a child remanded to custody in a Secure Training Centre was £187,000 per annum. This excludes associated costs of custody such as education and transportation.

In 2012, 30% of self-inflicted deaths were by prisoners held on remand, despite comprising 13% of the prison population on average during the year. In 2011, they accounted for 35% of all self-inflicted deaths, and made up 15% of the population.

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.

In Prisons Inspectorate surveys almost a third of all remand prisoners said they were from a black or other minority ethnic background (compared with just over a quarter in the prison population as a whole), which rose to just over two-fifths in the young adult estate. Similarly, foreign nationals were over-represented, especially in the women’s estate where over a quarter said they were foreign nationals.

Half of all remand prisoners reported to the Prisons Inspectorate that they had been in prison on two or more previous occasions, 34% reported that this was their first time in prison.

Over a third (35%) of remand prisoners reported a drug problem and over a quarter (27%) an alcohol problem. 66% of those who reported substance misuse problems said they had received some treatment or help, although only 48% said they knew who could help to put them in contact with services in the community. Remanded young adults with a substance misuse problem were much less likely than those sentenced to say they had received an intervention - 65% compared with 81%.

In Prisons Inspectorate surveys, 47% of remand prisoners concerned about bail said they had found it difficult to get bail information.

Remand prisoners reported feeling less safe than sentenced prisoners.

High rates of both unconvicted (40%) and convicted unsentenced (37%) prisoners reported they were not involved in any activities at the time of the survey.

Information on the number of unconvicted prisoners who have received no social visits from family is not centrally collated.

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 Ministry of Justice survey found that only 32% of prisoners reported being in paid employment in the four weeks prior to custody.

(All facts taken from the full version of the Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile: Autumn 2013)

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.