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19 Jan 2021

Howard League responds to inspection report on the impact of Covid-19 on the criminal justice system

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to the criminal justice joint inspection report, Impact of the pandemic on the Criminal Justice System, published today (Tuesday 19 January).

The joint report – by the four Chief Inspectors of Probation, Prisons, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services – raises “grave concerns” about the potential long-term impact of Covid 19-related court backlogs on the criminal justice system across England and Wales.

The report comes a week after the Howard League submitted evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee on how the criminal case backlog and extension to custody time limits has affected people in prison awaiting trial.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is a challenging and worrying time for everyone, and the criminal justice system is under enormous strain as we try to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

“Tens of thousands of people in prison are spending hours on end in their cells without purpose, often in solitary confinement, and yet more and more defendants are being remanded by the courts.

“The decision to plough on with court business even during a national lockdown will surely lead to more cases being disrupted as jurors, witnesses and staff fall prey to the virus.

“This will not only heap more pressure on the prisons as the number of people on remand continues to grow; it will cause further distress and frustration to victims of crime who wait longer for justice to be done.”

The problems caused by the court backlogs will be among the topics discussed at a Howard League event next week – In Conversation with Dame Vera Baird, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales.

Places are still available for the online event, to be held on Wednesday 27 January from 4pm.

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. The Howard League submission to the House of Lords Constitution Committee inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on the operation of the courts can be found on the charity’s website.
  3. Places for the Howard League ‘In Conversation’ event with Dame Vera Baird, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, can be booked on the charity’s website.
  4. Impact of the pandemic on the Criminal Justice System. A joint view of the Criminal Justice Inspectors on the Criminal Justice System’s response to Covid-19 will be published on Tuesday 19 January on the Criminal Justice Joint Inspectorates website.

Contact

Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955
Email: robert.preece@howardleague.org

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