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Howard League for Penal Reform briefing on rethinking remand for women

New briefing


24 July 2020
Howard League for Penal Reform briefing on rethinking remand for women

The Howard League for Penal Reform has published a briefing on remand for women, which calls on the process for remand decision-making to be reformed to enable judges and magistrates to take a distinct approach to women. The briefing argues that remand into prison is being overused for women, highlighting the particular problems which they experience as a result, and what might be the main factors influencing remand decisions.

The briefing argues that:

  • Women commit fewer violent offences than men, which suggests that the majority of women could be safely managed in the community while they await trial or sentence. However, women on remand are over-represented in the prison system, with 46% of women entering prison in 2019 doing so on remand. The most common offence for which women are remanded to prison is theft
  • Women are too often inappropriately remanded into custody; in 2019, 65% of women remanded to prison and subsequently dealt with by the magistrates’ courts did not go on to receive an immediate prison sentence
  • Foreign national and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women are disproportionately more likely to be remanded without sufficient reason
  • Being remanded to prison is a particularly harmful experience for women, as it relates to a sudden separation from family and can mean losing their home
  • Remanding women is also more likely to negatively impact on children
     

The report suggested that better oversight is needed to scrutinise remand decisions and identify poor practice. It recommends more guidance and training for judges and lawyers, as recent research has found that the law at remand hearings may not be fully understood by all who have to apply it. It also recommends that more information about a woman’s circumstances should be provided at a remand hearing, including whether the woman has children, as is already done for a sentencing hearing.

The full report can be found here.

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