Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report


241. We have focused on two issues relating to remand prisoners: (i) the disproportionate use of remand, as evidenced by the very high figures of remand prisoners as a proportion of the prison estate and (ii) the 'rehabilitative' strategy designed for remand prisoners (most of whom have not been convicted of any offence) and their general treatment whilst in custody.

242. The remand prison population comprises people awaiting trial (the majority) and those who have been convicted but are awaiting sentence. In June 2003, the population of untried prisoners was 7,900, and of convicted but unsentenced prisoners just under 5,200.[194] Over 17% of the prison population are currently remanded in custody, as the table below demonstrates.

Percentage of prison population that are on remand or serving sentences of less than 12 months at 30 June 2004[195]


% population on remand
% population serving sentences of less than 12 months
Total prison population

243. The Bail Act 1976 asserts a presumption in favour of bail for all people awaiting trial except those on charges of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, rape or attempted rape. Yet eight out of ten people received into prison on remand are charged with a non-violent offence. 20% of those held on remand are acquitted. 50% of male prisoners held on remand in 2002 received a non-custodial sentence whilst 59% of female remanded prisoners received a non-custodial sentence.

244. In 2002, the average age of a remand prisoner was 29. Over 20% were under 21. In 2002, 36 remand prisoners committed suicide, representing one every ten days. [196]

245. Ninety-three per cent of remand prisoners are men. Although women are in a small minority, the number of women on remand has more than trebled in the last decade. Remand prisoners represent almost a quarter of the current female prison population and constitute the majority of women who enter prison each year: of the 12,000 women sent to prison in 2002, two thirds were on remand. A recent Prison Reform Trust report on remand prisoners, published in September 2004, concludes that custodial remand of women is used too frequently by the courts due to a general failure in the provision of information to the courts regarding the needs and experiences of women offenders, in particular, adequate social, psychiatric and probation reports, prior to the court's decision whether or not to grant bail.[197]

246. One specific issue was raised by several witnesses, including HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, the Independent Monitoring Boards, the Howard League for Prison Reform and the Prison Reform Trust. They expressed concern that a court may decide to remand an individual in custody to allow assessments to be made, including mental health evaluations, in preference to relying on already over-burdened community social services. Indeed, a representative of the Independent Monitoring Boards told us that

    "It is easier to get a psychiatric report by sending someone on remand to High Down for 28 days for an offence that may not be punishable by imprisonment anyway."[198]

247. We consider that the expanding use of remand is cause for concern. The growing numbers of remand prisoners are impacting significantly on the already overcrowded prison estate. The fact that over 50% of all remand prisoners are not subsequently given a custodial sentence points to an urgent need for reform to reduce the numbers of remand prisoners. It is unfortunate that the Government's National Action Plan contains no reference to remand prisoners. We recommend that the Government should commission a comprehensive review of the role of remand in the criminal justice system as a matter of priority, particularly in light of the weakening of the presumption in favour of bail introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

248. We turn now to look at the treatment of remand prisoners. Remand prisoners are held in local prisons, which are in the main the most overcrowded and have the most basic prison regimes. The present Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, has commented that remand prisoners "are often at the bottom of the pack when they should be, as unconvicted prisoners, at the top of the pack". He advocates that remand prisoners should have separate conditions and generally a lower security categorisation.[199]

249. Remand prisoners as a prison group suffer some of the highest levels of social deprivation and exclusion, and present on admission to prison with some of the greatest needs.[200] Research by Nacro demonstrates that remand prisoners are five times more likely to have lived in a hostel prior to imprisonment than sentenced prisoners, are less likely to have had a job before prison and have higher levels of drug dependency than sentences prisoners: two-thirds of male remand prisoners and a half of female remand prisoners have used at least one drug in the year before coming to prison.[201]

250. The President of the Prison Governors' Association, Mr Mike Newall, told us that:

    "This group of people is more expensive during their period on remand then they are going to be at any other time and they are also going to be much more demanding - they are going to come in with drug problems of one kind and another - and work has to start with these people immediately…The National Offender Management Service talks about offenders rather than people who are remanded and therefore innocent at this stage, but these people are going to be extremely expensive and, unless the work starts there, they will be half-way through their sentence before they are convicted. So you are not going to have the opportunity to deal with them."[202]

251. Remand prisoners do not currently undergo any needs assessment on admission to prison, nor do they receive any sentence or regime plan. The Prison Service does not operate a separate programme of education or work for remand prisoners. In addition, the Prison Service does not collate statistics on attendance of remand prisoners at work or education. The justification for this absence of provision is that remand prisoners are, for the most part, unconvicted of any offence, and there is an inherent contradiction in talking about the 'rehabilitation' of potentially innocent people. For this reason remand prisoners cannot be required to work or attend education classes.[203]

252. Whilst respecting remand prisoners' status as (in most cases) unconvicted prisoners, we believe that measures should be put in place to ensure the time remand prisoners spend in custody is used constructively.

253. We recommend that remand prisoners should undergo a needs assessment on reception to prison, including mandatory drug testing, and that the Prison Service should develop a separate prison regime tailored to meet their specific needs. This regime should include a short induction programme, education and work opportunities and drug and alcohol treatment programmes, with arrangements in place for continuation of treatment and programmes in the community. Participation in these programmes would of course be on a voluntary basis. Short, intensive basic literacy and numeracy programmes should also be made available to those remand prisoners who need them. We recommend that Jobcentre Plus surgeries in prisons should assist remand prisoners with benefits and employment issues arising as a result of their imprisonment, and that prison housing advice and support services should try where possible to preserve the accommodation to which the prisoner will be returning.

194   Offender Management Caseload Statistics 2003 (December 2004), table 8.1 Back

195   HMPS response to Home Affairs Committee follow-up question (April 2004) Back

196   Prison Statistics England and Wales 2002  Back

197   Prison Reform Trust, Lacking Conviction: the rise of the women's remand population (September 2004) Back

198   Q 115 Back

199   Lord Woolf's address to the Prison Reform Trust, 2001 Back

200   See Social Exclusion Unit report, Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners (July 2002) Back

201   Prison Reform Trust website at, quoting the Office of National Statistics Back

202   Q 467 Back

203   Though they are permitted to work if they choose to do so (Prison Rules 1999, rule 31 (5)). Back

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