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18 Aug 2014

Revealed: The wasted millions spent on needless remand

Courts wasted an estimated £230million of taxpayers’ money last year by needlessly locking up people on remand, figures published by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal today (18 August 2014).

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

The money spent on keeping them in prison would have been enough to build 16 new secondary schools, pay 10,000 nurses for a year, or reverse the government’s cuts to the criminal legal aid budget.

Of the 36,044 men, women and children who were remanded into custody by magistrates, 25,413 (71 per cent) did not go on to receive a custodial sentence.

In the crown courts, 9,844 (27 per cent) of the 36,833 men, women and children remanded were either acquitted or given a non-custodial sentence. However, there was a significant gender difference, with 41 per cent of female defendants being acquitted or receiving a non-custodial sentence, compared to 26 per cent of male defendants.

The figures suggest that there is widespread overuse and misuse of remand across England and Wales – despite the recent introduction of new legislation designed in part to reduce the number of people locked up needlessly.

People on remand receive a very poor regime when in prison. Overall they spend more time locked in their cells, receive less help and support when inside, and are inadequately prepared for release. Remand prisoners are also at the greatest risk of self-harm and suicide.

Remand is currently the key driver of the rising prison population. Its misuse puts further pressure on the country’s overcrowded and under-resourced prison estate, where suicides and assaults have risen alarmingly after the number of officers was cut by 30 per cent in three years.

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.”

Over the 12 months ending June 2014 there have been approximately 11,594 people in prison on remand at any one time. As a prison place costs £37,000 per year on average, this means that almost £429million per year is being spent on incarcerating remand prisoners alone.

The cost to the prison system of the 70 per cent of men and women who are remanded by magistrates but do not go on to receive a custodial sentence is an estimated £165million per year (based on 25,413 people each remanded for nine weeks on average, with a prison place costing £37,000 per year).

The cost to the system of imprisoning those who are remanded by crown courts but do not go on to receive a custodial sentence is an estimated £65million per year (based on 9,844 people remanded for nine weeks on average at a cost of £37,000 per year per prison place).

The true cost to the taxpayer is likely to be even higher after the ancillary costs of remanding people into custody are taken into account. These include prisoner transfer costs and court administration costs, as well as the provision of benefits and support to address the economic and social disadvantage caused by remand, such as family breakup, homelessness and unemployment.


Total remanded Total acquitted or given non-custodial sentence
All courts 72,877 35,257
Magistrates’ courts 36,044 25,413
Crown courts 36,833 9,844


20 magistrates’ court areas where fewest remand prisoners go on to receive a custodial sentence*
Local justice area Total remanded in custody Total sentenced to immediate custody Proportion of remanded defendants who do not go on to receive a custodial sentence (%)
Hartlepool 115 20 82.6
City of Sunderland 165 29 82.4
Telford and South Shropshire 101 20 80.2
East Yorkshire 135 27 80.0
West London 960 193 79.9
Mid and South East Northumberland 111 23 79.3
South West London 489 102 79.1
Loughborough, Melton, Belvoir and Rutland 128 27 78.9
County Durham and Darlington 405 88 78.3
Sheffield 318 70 78.0
North West London 619 138 77.7
South Essex 381 86 77.4
North Surrey 137 31 77.4
South London 1,208 276 77.2
Sussex (Central) 259 61 76.4
Bradford and Keighley 376 89 76.3
South East London 1023 249 75.7
Cornwall 158 39 75.3
East Lancashire 157 39 75.2
East London 1521 383 74.8

*excludes areas which remand fewer than 100 people per annum

20 crown courts where fewest remand prisoners go on to receive a custodial sentence*
Crown court Total remanded in custody Total sentenced to immediate custody Proportion of remanded defendants who do not go on to receive a custodial sentence (%)
Basildon 445 271 39.1
Harrow 526 339 35.6
Inner London 499 325 34.9
Merthyr Tydfil 253 169 33.2
Southampton 324 218 32.7
Birmingham 1,429 962 32.7
Leeds 1,206 812 32.7
Gloucester 209 144 31.1
Wood Green 685 472 31.1
Winchester 321 222 30.8
Snaresbrook 1,369 952 30.5
Plymouth 175 122 30.3
Old Bailey 599 418 30.2
Manchester (Crown Square) 1,166 816 30.0
Bolton 357 251 29.7
Oxford 307 216 29.6
Woolwich 943 666 29.4
Portsmouth 267 190 28.8
Bradford 523 373 28.7
Exeter 271 194 28.4

*excludes courts which remand fewer than 100 people per annum

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the UK. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. Figures were obtained from the Ministry of Justice through Freedom of Information requests.
  3. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) 2012 was designed in part to reduce the number of people being remanded into custody unnecessarily. Section 90 of the Act introduced the ‘no real prospect test’, which restricted the courts’ power to remand an unconvicted adult defendant into custody where it appears that there is no real prospect that the defendant would receive a custodial sentence if convicted. A similar test was also introduced for children.
  4. The ‘no real prospect test’ came into effect in December 2012. Following this the remand population fell slightly for about eight months before it began to rise again. The number of people being received into custody on remand is now higher than pre-LASPO levels.
  5. Increased use of remand is having a disproportionate effect on women, with the number remanded into custody increasing by 19 per cent between March 2013 and March 2014, compared with an increase of 9 per cent for men.


Rob Preece
Press Officer
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