Warning as number of prisoners on remand increases by more than a third during pandemic

The number of Scottish prisoners on remand has grown by more than a third during the pandemic due to delays in criminal trials, campaigners have warned.

The Howard League charity says the untried remand population stood at 1,293 in February 2020, and despite an initial fall it had grown to 1,753 by April 30 2021.

It means the untried remand population increased by 35.5% over the 14 months.

Prisoners are spending more time on remand due to the backlog in court cases, the charity says, during which time they cannot access the same support services as convicted prisoners.

Using the social media hashtag “demand less remand”, the Howard League are campaigning for wider use of alternatives to remand, saying custody should remain for offences which are likely to attract a prison sentence on conviction.

A Howard League report released on Monday says that in March 2021 “a significant proportion of the remand population were accused of non-violent offences, including housebreaking, vandalism and drug-related offences”.

It states: “The global pandemic has seen a significant increase in the use of remand in Scotland, with the national lockdown causing substantial constraints on Scottish courts and delays in sentencing those remanded to custody.

“The growing backlog of court cases has had a significant impact on the numbers on remand and is increasing the time spent on remand.”

It says prisoners can be especially isolated while on remand, while they have limited opportunities for education or rehabilitation programmes.

The Howard League recommends alternatives to remand including supervised bail and electronic monitoring.

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