To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the remand backlog on (1) prison overcrowding, and (2) the health and wellbeing of prisoners, including children and young people held on remand.
16 December 2020
The remand population has increased during the pandemic, mostly due to the challenges in holding Crown Court trials during this period. However, as published in the Prison Population National Statistics on the 26th November, the remand population is forecast to drop by September 2021 as trial capacity is expected to increase in the next year as the court system recovers from the impact of COVID-19. In turn more remand prisoners will flow out of the remand population.
The total prison population has also reduced by over 5,000 since the start of the pandemic and as a result the total number of prisoners currently held in crowded conditions has reduced. The extent to which crowding has reduced in 20/21 will be reflected in the publication of the HMPPS Annual Digest.
The pandemic has brought new challenges to managing the estate and we have worked at pace to ensure we have enough suitable accommodation, protect the most vulnerable and reduce transmission of infection. We have produced a range of products to support Governors in devising and implementing local safety and welfare plans designed to mitigate risk of self-harm, including tailored guidance for supporting specific groups of people in prison whose wellbeing may be more impacted by Covid-19 measures.
Additionally, the latest monthly Youth Custody data published in September show there were 620 children and young people (including 18 year olds) in the youth secure estate – this is significantly down from the published figure of 852 at the end of February 2020, and the lowest number recorded within this publication. Of the 620 children and young people in custody at this time, 236 (38%) were on remand.
MoJ is currently undertaking a review into the use of custodial remand for children, including identifying options to reduce numbers where appropriate. In the Smarter Sentencing White Paper, MoJ announced plans to raise the threshold for imposing custodial remand on children and require courts to record their rationale.