Justice Committee questions use of remand in Scotland

24.06.2018

Holyrood’s Justice Committee has found that the proportion of remand prisoners in Scotland is high, particularly amongst female prisoners, where remand prisoners account for almost a quarter of the total female prison population.

The Committee also found that time spent on remand can result in disruption to an individual’s benefits, housing, employment, medical treatment, and to their wider family. It also heard that being on remand is largely unproductive and that access to services for these prisoners is limited.

Significantly, only 30% of the women held on remand go on to receive custodial sentences.

Whilst the Committee was strongly in favour of remand being used where there appears to be a risk to wider society, it has criticised the lack of data to explain sheriffs’ or judges’ decisions when bail is refused.

Furthermore, the committee suggested there should be greater consistency in terms of effective alternatives to remand, such as supervised bail models, and that these are sufficiently resourced.

Speaking as the report was published, Committee Convener, Margaret Mitchell MSP, said:

“The need to protect society and to keep those who are a threat to the public off the streets is paramount.

“However, the number of those held on remand in our prisons now is higher than in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The Committee was concerned therefore to hear that there is a lack of clear understanding as to what lies behind this rise.

“In short we want to make sure that those held on remand are there for a good reason.

“This is especially important as the disruption to the life of a person sent to prison on remand, but who then does not receive a custodial sentence, can be profound.”

Background

Remand is either:

  • when an accused person, following a first appearance in court, is kept in custody prior to trial;
  • or when a convicted person is kept in custody prior to sentencing;
  • or when a convicted person is kept in custody pending an appeal.

This report is primarily concerned with the first category of remand.

The full report can be read online here.

More info on the inquiry, including Official Reports and written evidence is online here.

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