The Daily Telegraph
Court delays send prisoners on remand to 14-year high
COURT delays have resulted in the number of prisoners remanded in jail because they are too dangerous to release on bail reaching a 14-year high, Ministry of Justice figures show.
There were 13,409 suspects held in jail for serious crimes including murder, sexual assaults and drug dealing, up by nearly 6 per cent in a year and the highest since 2008, according to the MOJ data.
It means thousands more victims of serious offences are having to wait longer for justice as the barristers’ indefinite strike compounds existing court delays. The latest figures released after freedom of information requests show that 1,777 people have been held on remand for longer than a year, and more than 533 people have been held longer than two years.
The number of remand prisoners increased sharply during the pandemic from below 10,000 in 2019 as trials were brought to a halt by the Covid threat.
Continued delays in trials have meant the numbers remanded have risen further as violent crime has returned to pre-pandemic levels and more offenders have been refused bail. The number awaiting trial has increased by 4 per cent to 8,763 in the year to the end of June 2022, while those awaiting sentence has risen by 8 per cent to 4,646 over the same period.
The increasing numbers on remand mean more defendants are coming up to their custody time limits of six months, with judges rejecting prosecution requests to extend them so they can remain in jail. Among those who have been released to date are a suspected county lines gang leader, and defendants accused of assault, arson and the supply of class A drugs.
Yesterday, it was confirmed that the Crown Prosecution Service will mount a legal challenge to judges’ decisions to release suspects in at least two cases. It is thought this could be expanded to include up to eight cases where bail was granted, according to legal sources.
It comes as Brandon Lewis, the new Justice Secretary, is due next week to meet leaders of the Criminal Bar Association, although MOJ sources have played down the prospect of the talks resolving the barristers’ strike.
An MOJ spokesman said: “Remand cases have been prioritised following the unprecedented impact of the pandemic and only those posing the greatest risk to the public or who are likely to abscond are held in prison. Decisions on bail are made by independent judges who ensure the public are protected.”