The analysis shows that overall there were fewer remand decisions made from sheriff courts in the first pandemic year (2020/21) than in previous years. The fall in remand decisions was due to the decrease in volume of summary case decisions (decisions to remand increased slightly for solemn cases in 2020/21). Although the total number of remands at first bail decision points fell in the first pandemic year, the overall number of remands for new solemn petition (more serious) cases rose.
The fall in summary remand outcomes is in line with far fewer first bail decision points of summary cases in general. Without this drop in callings, it is likely the remand population would have been even higher. It is known that the pandemic reduced court capacity and court business especially during the two lockdown periods. However, it is unclear whether this contributed to the fall in first bail decision points in 2020-21, or whether its impact was largely restricted to later court diets.
The rise in decisions to remand for solemn new petition callings was due to the much higher volume of solemn petition registrations (many of these with bail aggravations), and not an increased likelihood of the accused being remanded at a solemn petition first bail decision point. Indeed, for cases with and without bail aggravations, the likelihood of the accused being remanded fell compared to the previous year.
This is important context for the discussion of Scotland’s remand population, which has risen dramatically over the pandemic. The conclusions of this paper (that the total volume of decisions to remand have fallen, but that makeup of the remand population is changing) suggests that the driving factor for increased remand populations in the pandemic is increased time on remand, which has more than offset the fall in remand arrivals.
This occassional paper is the first to be published by Justice Analytical Services specifically on the theme of remand and bail court decisions. Further publications may consider other factors about the case and the accused in terms of remand and bail outcomes, as well as exploring other important considerations about remand and bail such as the final outcomes in court (e.g. non-conviction or conviction with custodial sentence) for accused persons who have been on remand or bail during their case.
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