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Prisoners on Remand

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN HL11120, tabled on 7 December 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the remand backlog on the welfare of the families of those being held in custody.

Answered on

16 December 2020

Crime recovery work is moving at pace – there are currently more than 260 courtrooms available to hold jury trials and 2,360 jury trials have been listed between restarting in May and 25 October. Since August, Magistrates’ courts have been disposing more cases than they are receiving, dealing with over 22,000 cases each week. Cases where the defendant is held in custody are actively monitored and continue to be prioritised.

Pre-trial detention is never considered lightly and is designed to minimise the risk that defendants who pose a risk to the public, or those likely to abscond and evade justice, could be released back into the community on bail before their trial can be listed. In the event this was to happen, this could significantly undermine public confidence in the justice system and have a detrimental impact on victims and witnesses.

We recognise that maintaining the ties individuals in custody have with their families and friends during this stressful time is important for the wellbeing of both the individual and their family. To facilitate family contact during Covid, we commenced the rollout of video calling which is now available in all 110 public prisons at no cost to families at the current time. This was introduced alongside other emergency measures, including the provision of 1,500 secure mobile phones and extra phone credit, to help maintain family contact while physical visits were suspended.

We continue to learn lessons from this to inform both the current service and longer-term planning in line with the recommendations of Lord Farmer’s reviews for maintaining family ties.