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All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Women in the Penal System

A prisoner and an officer talk in Styal prison for women

The APPG

The Howard League provides administrative assistance to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Women in the Penal System.

The APPG works to ensure high quality debate and discussion in Parliament on issues relating to women in the justice system, and continues to push for the full implementation of the Corston Report recommendations. It is co-chaired by Baroness Corston, Jackie Doyle-Price MP and Debbie Abrahams MP.

Minutes of the AGM 2019

Minutes of the inaugural meeting 2020

Minutes of the EGM September 2020

The work of the APPG

Inquiry into the arrests of women

In May 2019 the APPG launched an Inquiry into the arrests of women. The inquiry is aimed at encouraging and enabling police forces to prevent women being drawn into the criminal justice system unnecessarily.

The inquiry has held oral evidence sessions with expert witnesses to investigate examples of good practice in reducing arrests of women. it has published two briefing papers.

The APPG inquiry is complemented by a programme of work by the Howard League to reduce the arrests of women and stem the flow of women into the criminal justice system

Read the APPG briefing on arrests of women which found that thousands of women in distress were being arrested unnecessarily each year instead of being given the help and support they needed.

The second APPG briefing on arrests of women included analysis of anonymised data on arrests of women from five police forces. The APPG found that too many women were being arrested, held in police custody and then released without charge, which was an unnecessary and wasteful use of police resources.

A copy of the briefing paper was sent to Kit Malthouse MP, Minister for Crime and Policing. Read the reply from the Minister of State for Justice here

Inquiry into the imprisonment of women

The APPG is also conducting an Inquiry into the imprisonment of women, continuing the APPG’s 2018 inquiry on this topic. Read the APPG report on prison for their own protection: the case for repeal.

The APPG wrote to Robert Buckland QC MP urging the government to abolish the outdated law that gives the courts powers to send women to prison for their own protection.

Read the responses to the report from the Secretary of State for Justice here and the Director of Public Prosecutions here.

The 2018 inquiry culminated in the publication of a report which outlined ‘knowledge gaps’ in the sentencing process. Magistrates often lack information about the circumstances of women’s lives and the likely impact of prison, as well as about what specialist provision for women is available in their local area. All the evidence submitted to the inquiry can be viewed here.

With the aim of embedding the report’s findings, the APPG’s current inquiry is focussing on the use of remand as well as the moment of sentence, to ensure that all the professionals involved have the appropriate information and guidance to produce the best outcomes for women.

The inquiry is complemented by the Howard League’s work to improve the outcomes for women at sentence.

On 21 May 2020, in a letter to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, the APPG called on the government to release more women from prison during the coronavirus pandemic. The letter was signed by more than 40 parliamentarians. You can read the letter here and the response from the Secretary of State for Justice here. The Minister of State, Lucy Frazer QC MP met with the co-chairs of the APPG.

Previous APPG Inquiries

  • Inquiry into the treatment of women in the criminal justice system, 2016-2017
  • Inquiry into preventing the unnecessary criminalisation of women, 2014-2015
  • Inquiry into girls in the penal system, 2011-2012

Major achievements of the APPG:

  • Contributed to reducing the criminalisation of girls
  • Helped to end the policy of holding girls in prisons
  • Championed women’s centres
  • Influenced government thinking regarding women’s imprisonment ahead of the 2018 Female Offender Strategy

The Corston Report

In 2007, Baroness Corston published her seminal Review of Women with Particular Vulnerabilities in the Criminal Justice System, also known as the Corston Report. The report called for a ‘distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach’ for women involved in the justice system.

It concluded that imprisonment was disproportionate and inappropriate for the vast majority of women in prison and that women’s centres and other community services were far more suitable for almost all women in contact with the justice system.

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