Criminals Enroll in 'Prison Waiting List' - Judges to Resort to Sending Them to Timeout Instead - What we know so far...

Craig MacKenzie
Craig MacKenzie

Published: October 13th, 2023

7 min read

This week, the prison population rose to a record number of 88,225, a significant increase on the previous week and only around 500 places short of "operational capacity", the maximum number of prisoners that can be held.

Andrea Albutt, president of the Prison Governor's Association, said: "If the government further overcrowd our prisons, if they say to our members' you will put more people in your already overcrowded prison', we will take legal action."

Such comments make it unlikely that the government will try and force prison governors to take prisons above operational capacity.

The government had planned for an extra 20,000 prison places, but beset by planning law difficulties and other obstacles, only around 5,500 of those places have been delivered.

As a result, it has been reported that the Lord Chancellor will make a statement to parliament on Monday, 16th October 2023 and announce several reforms. Likely reforms include:

  • Extending early release on home detention curfew for certain prisoners.
  • Encouraging greater use of community penalties in place of short-term custodial sentences.
  • A presumption in some cases against short-term sentences of imprisonment. This idea has been mooted many times, and the ban may extend to penalties of up to twelve months, although six months is perhaps more likely.
  • Adjourning sentence of some offenders on bail to allow the above measures to free up prison places.

A spokesperson for the Centre for Women's Justice said:

"It is extremely worrying to hear that sentencing decisions for serious sexual offenders may be affected by a lack of resources in the prison estate. [...] victims are already being badly let down by a justice system plagued by under-resourcing: lack of police resource to investigate their cases, backlogs in the courts meaning lengthy trial delays - this is another concern to add to that list."

As a firm, we are closely monitoring developments, and once the government announces its final plans, we can offer tailored advice to our clients.

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