Convicted criminals could avoid jail because prisons are ‘full’

Convicted criminals could avoid jail from next week because prisons are full, according to reports.

The Times reported that Lord Edis, the senior presiding judge for England and Wales, has said that from next week the sentencing of criminals who are on bail should be delayed.

Some prisoners may also be released early under proposals from the government designed to contain the expanding prison population.

The Times reported that one judge was concerned convicted rapists might be left on bail rather than being jailed.

The development comes after stark warnings were issued over the summer about the lack of capacity in the prison system, which Justice Secretary Alex Chalk admitted was under “intense pressure”.

According to the government’s own projections, the prison population is set to grow to 89,100 by November, but there are only 87,573 operational prison places left – creating a shortage of 1,527 places.

The shadow justice secretary, Shabana Mahmood, said it was an “absolutely damning indictment of the state of our prisons that this Tory government is unable to either get criminals locked up or keep them there”.

“The prison estate is a mess,” she said.

“Prisons are overcrowded and have become breeding grounds for more crime. The government has been warned time and again about the challenges with prison population and conditions.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Govt to ‘look into’ prison scandal

Asked about the reports by Sophy Ridge on Sky News’ Politics Hub programme, Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said he could not comment directly but that a “wave of prosecutions” were coming through due to a COVID backlog and the recent barristers’ strike.

Pressed on whether the government had become soft on crime, Mr Tugendhat said: “That’s absolutely not true.

“We are absolutely clear that those who commit violent acts, sexual acts against people in the United Kingdom will go to prison and will go to prison for long periods of time to protect the British people.

“That’s why we’re increasing the number of prison places. And that’s why we’re absolutely adamant that those who are convicted of these horrendous crimes will go to prison. “

During a recent appearance in front of parliament’s justice committee, Mr Chalk spoke of how the government had had to rely on rapid deployment cells to manage the expanding population.

But he rejected suggestions from the committee chair, Sir Bob Neill, that the country could have run out of prison spaces by the autumn, saying: “There will always be enough prison places to give effect to the order of the court and ensure that the guilty are convicted, the innocent walk free and the public are protected.”

During his speech to the Tory Party conference, Mr Chalk said the government was considering renting prison cells overseas to tackle overcrowding.

Read more:
Inside the lives of IPP prisoners serving sentences of ‘psychological torture’
Justice secretary to ‘look into’ staff conditions at state-of-the-art prison

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

What is an IPP sentence?

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Our first priority is to keep the public safe from dangerous criminals. That is why we have ended automatic halfway release for serious sexual and violent criminals and increased the average time spent in prison by three years – cutting violent crime by nearly 50% since 2010.

“However, the criminal justice system has seen unprecedented growth in the prison population, following the pandemic and barristers’ strike, particularly among those awaiting trial, with 6,000 more prisoners on remand than pre-pandemic.

“The Prison Service has already put in place measures such as rapid deployment cells and doubling up cells to help manage these pressures, and the government is carrying out the biggest prison building campaign since the Victorian era to build 20,000 new places, making sure we always have the places we need.”

Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.