The Howard League for Penal Reform, a prison reform charity, has stated that an estimated £230 million of taxpayers’ money has last year been spent on remanding defendants into custody who have later been found not guilty or sentenced to non custodial sentences.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, commented in respect of the matter that the figures demonstrated there was a “widespread overuse and misuse of remand”. She said:
“Our prisons are squalid and our prisoners are idle, yet the courts are continuing to remand innocent people and people accused of petty crime at huge public expense.”
“It is time to end this unjust system, which is costing the nation money that could be better spent.”
Cost Per Year
The charity stated that each prison place costs £37,000 per annum on average, and as approximately 11,500 defendants are on remand at any one time it costs the public £429 million per year.
The Bail Act 1976 governs the granting of bail from court and states the circumstances in which defendants may have bail withheld from them. New legislation was brought into force in 2012 which was introduced to reduce the number of defendants remanded into custody unnecessarily. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act stipulates that unconvicted adult defendants should not be remanded into custody where there appeared to be “no real prospect” that they would be sent to jail should they be convicted.
Richard Monkhouse, Chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, said:
“Frankly, the figures from the Howard League do not give the context in which bail decisions are made.
“The decision to remand a person in custody is one of the toughest our members have to take, in doing so they are assessing risk and fulfilling their duty to apply the law.
“The suggestion that there is ‘widespread misuse’ of remand is misguided. Very careful consideration is taken by our members when doing their job in administering the law.”
Decision for Court
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice defended the statistics and said:
“Bail and remand decisions are a matter for the court in individual cases based on the facts that are presented to the court at the time of the hearing.
“The Bail Act 1976, as amended by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act, imposes a strict statutory framework within which courts must make their decision.”