Howard League blog · 31 Jul 2023
A one-off podcast on remand
What does being on remand mean? Custodial remand is imprisonment in lieu of bail. It includes people awaiting trial, and those who have been convicted but are awaiting sentencing. The number of people in prison on remand in England and Wales has reached its highest level in half a century.
Remand is such an important issue that, at the Howard League, we have made it one of the priorities in our new five-year strategy.
Remand is particularly hard for children. In Spring 2021 we launched a project funded by the Big Lottery to understand and support children on remand in prison with their unmet legal support needs. The aim was to understand, in discussion with professionals, why children had been remanded to custody and to see if they could be supported to get bail.
We worked with two cohorts of children on remand at HMYOI Feltham. Firstly, we identified where they most needed legal advice, then we worked with each child to give them specialised support and advice. This ranged from working with their Youth Offending Team and children’s service to ensure a suitable bail package was in place to enable their release from prison, to writing representations to support them during sentencing.
We produced two project briefings, the first summarising the legal issues faced by children on remand, and the second focusing on the experiences, voices and lessons to be learned from young people remanded to a children’s prison.
In 2022, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Act brought about a change to the law on remand for children, tightening the legal tests for remanding a child to prison. A year on, despite these changes, just under half of children in custody are on remand. Most of these children will not go on to receive a custodial sentence. Black and mixed-race children are more likely to be remanded to custody, and in 2022, 57% of children on remand were from racially minoritised backgrounds and 31% were Black.
We commissioned a one-off podcast produced by Transform Justice, aimed at lawyers and criminal practitioners working with children. We discussed recent changes to the law on remand, the issues children on remand face, and how practitioners can best support them.
The podcast was hosted by Transform Justice’s Director Penelope Gibbs and featured our Managing Solicitor Sinead MacCann, Just For Kids Law’s Legal Director Aika Stephenson, and Hackney Youth Justice Service’s Team Leader Jessica Edwards. Take a listen and find the timestamped questions below.
00:00 – 01:02: Intro
01:25: Why is remand for children used at all?
01:25: Sinead, we’re talking about children going into places which are not called prisons but look and feel very like prisons. Can you talk about the experience for a child of being on remand in custody?
02:59: Jessica, remand is a particular case because if a child is awaiting trial, like with an adult, they’re considered innocent until proven guilty, and may not be proven guilty. Is that a reality for children on remand? Or does it feel exactly the same as the children who are sentenced to custody?
03:54: What does “keep-aparts” mean?
04:43: What is the journey a child will take when being placed on remand?
05:46: Can you explain the power that the police have, if they charge a child while in police custody, what choices do the police then have as what do with that child?
06:12: And as a lawyer what can you do?
07:07: And then you argue that case with the police that that child could be safely kept on bail?
07:15: Once a child is remanded, does it make any difference to them what then happens in the court?
07:40: Is there a perception that if you’re in the dock in the court room you must have done something wrong?
08:39: Aika, can you give an example of a case where you’ve thought it was inappropriate that the police has detained them overnight?.
10:06: Aika, so one of the things about police detaining a child post-charge is that the child has to appear in a court the next working day that the court operates. You get to court, they [police] didn’t phone you, they did remand them, they wouldn’t take your representations to free your client and your client is in court cells. Is there anything you can do about that? Because we’ve heard that getting into the dock might have negative mood music around it.
11:31: Right, so the police make a recommendation to the prosecutor, as to whether the child should get court remand or not?
11:59: Sinead, there’s been some changes that came through with the Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts Act in the criteria that a court can use to remand a child. In essence, what changes have come into play here?
13:01: According to something I heard the other day remand episodes seem to be going down but a lot of children are in for longer. Aika, what do you think was the most important of the changes that were brought in by the PCSC?
14:11: Jessica, when a child is in front of the court and they are at risk of remand, what are the kind of reasons why the prosecution would want a child remanded in custody?
15:21: Sinead, you work on trying to release children who are on remand, what are the reasons the prosecution tend to give to resist your applications for children to come out on bail?
16:42: Aika in your experience what are the prosecution arguments you find difficult to counter?
18:06: Jessica, consider a situation where we have a child who is at risk of remand, and in fact the court decides they need to be remanded but there’s an option for children that is not available for adults which is called remand to local authority accommodation. Why is that child not remanded in custody?
20:14: Half the child prison population is on remand. Why aren’t they all living at home on remand to local authority accommodation?
21:00: Sinead, presumably you’re working towards trying to get remand to local authority accommodation in some of the cases you’re supporting?
22:38: Aika, do you think remand to local authority accommodation is a good option, if a child isn’t going to get bail?
23:51: I want to bring up an issue which we haven’t touched on yet which is that the evidence shows that Black and mixed-heritage children, particularly boys, are more likely to be remanded than white children. Jessica, what are your thoughts on why there is that disparity?
25:47: Sinead, have you at the Howard League looked at this issue of racial disproportionality in child remand?
27:24: Aika, what can a lawyer do in the court room context to fight against this racism?
28:28: Jessica, in Hackney, what are you doing to fight against the discrimination?
29:46: Sinead, when the court process has not gone as you wanted and the child has been remanded in custody, what are the options for lawyers to get a child out of custody? Or is that it?
32:33: Aika, we talked about children appearing in a dock, but once a child is in custody it must be more difficult to communicate with them and the people who could support them. What do you do once they’ve been remanded to try and get them out again?
34:35: In terms of children coming out of custody awaiting their trial, presumably most of them will have bail conditions. We talk about this phrase, ‘setting them up to fail’ but I imagine it’s quite important that the bail conditions that are put on any child at any point, need to be ones they can reasonably meet.
36:03: Aika do you have challenges with clients, with children, who don’t understand or cannot comply with the bail conditions they’ve got?
37:10: Last question, what one change in practice would most help in reducing unnecessary remands in custody?