Prison charity slams courts for ‘needlessly locking people up’ – and South West London is one of WORST offenders

South West London has one of the worst records for needlessly holding people in custody who are acquitted or don’t go to prison.

Prison reform charity the Howard League for Penal Reform revealed that nearly 80% of those in custody in South West London didn’t receive a custodial sentence.

This places the area in the top ten offenders nationally and amounts to an estimated £230million of unnecessary expense.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Our prisons are squalid and our prisoners are idle, yet the courts are continuing to remand innocent people and people accused of petty crime at huge public expense.

“It is time to end this unjust system, which is costing the nation money that could be better spent.”

There are approximately 11,500 people in prison on remand at any time in the UK resulting in more than £400million of public funds being spent on holding defendants on remand.

In 2013 25,413 men, women and children were held in custody by magistrates but released after trial, amounting to 71% of all defendants.

The average defendant was held for nine weeks at the cost of more than £100 a night.

At Crown Court 27% of those held on remand were either acquitted or given a non-custodial sentence with 41% of female defendants being acquitted or released, compared to 26% of male defendants.

During 2013 more than 35,000 people who had been remanded in custody went on to be either acquitted or given non-custodial sentences.

These figures show that despite recent legislation designed to reduce excessive numbers of people locked up unnecessarily, little has changed.

A charity spokesman said that people on remand receive a poor time in prison, spend more time locked up in their cells, receive less help and support when inside than prison inmates.

Image courtesy of Luigi Caterino, with thanks

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