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Persons On Remand

Volume 13: debated on Thursday 26 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now take urgent steps to reduce the number of persons held on remand in prison.

We share the hon. Member's desire to see a reduction in the number of such prisoners, but action to that end must be consistent with the interests of justice and the protection of the public. My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will continue to pursue ways of reducing the remand population by expediting criminal trials.

Given that as many as 7,500 prisoners can be on remand in custody on a single day—many of whom will he found not guilty or given non-custodial sentences, but who are nevertheless housed in appalling conditions—will the Minister make a speedy response to the recommendations of the Select Committee on Home Affairs to reduce the length of trials and to introduce the 110-day rule, which operates so effectively in Scotland?

The figure is too high. On 31 October the figure was 7,151. Shortly, the Government will be publishing a reply to the Select Committee report. It will comment on individual recommendations. I can say now that I do not see any suggestion in the report of an immediate answer to the problem of reducing the remand population. The Scottish 110-day rule would not provide the solution in present circumstances, because there is a let-out clause when there is a delay that is not the fault of the prosecution.