News

Understanding use of remand

Published: 25 Jan 2020 00:01
Part of:
Law and order

Study of reasons behind decisions on bail and remand.

Exploratory research into the reasons behind decisions on bail and remand has been commissioned to support work to reduce the number of people on pre-trial and pre-sentencing remand in the prison system.

Despite the long-term fall in crime, Scotland has the highest prison population per head in western Europe and approximately one in five prisoners in Scotland’s jails is being held on remand.

The findings of the study, which will include observation of court cases as well as interviews with criminal justice professionals, will inform the further development of alternatives to remand and consideration of how bail law operates.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said:

“While decisions on whether to remand in custody or grant bail to an accused person ahead of trial are a matter for courts, we are continuing to strengthen the provision of credible alternatives to custody and reduce disruptive pre-trial imprisonment. 

“Remand will always be necessary in some cases to protect the public. As part of our ‘smart justice’ evidence-led approach we are exploring ways to help reduce Scotland’s high prison population and prevent the damaging impact of remand where appropriate.

“This exploratory research will help inform our actions on remand, an issue which has also been highlighted by the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party Justice Committee.”

KSO Research will conduct the study on behalf of the Scottish Government and its justice partners.

The firm’s director Dr Kate Skellington Orr said:

“The research team has an extensive background in criminal justice research and is pleased to be able to support the partners in examining issues around bail and remand in Scotland. The research presents a timely opportunity to better understand decisions and explore innovation, including constructive options in the community.”

Speaking about the effects of imprisonment, Nancy Loucks, Chief Executive of charity Families Outside, said:

“Imprisonment fractures families, with younger children particularly sensitive to sudden and traumatic separation from a parent or other family member. A young child will not draw a distinction between custody for remand or sentence - only that they have had their family taken away from them, with consequences as serious as removal from home, school, friends, and placement in care. This Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) has proven and potentially long-term negative impacts on health and wellbeing.”

Background

Parliament’s cross-party Justice Committee inquiry into remand recommended further use of bail supervision and its report was signed off by all political parties.

Scotland’s bail laws have been strengthened in recent years, including a statutory presumption against bail for those accused of serious sexual offences with a history of such offending and enhanced penalties to deal with any person who breaches bail conditions.

Remand is widely recognised as having a similar impact to ineffective short-custodial sentences which disrupt employment, housing, medical arrangements and family relationships.