The criminal courts in England and Wales have been directed to postpone sentencing hearings for the coming week due to prison overcrowding, as reported by The Times. The news outlet also mentioned that government officials are considering the early release of current inmates to alleviate the strain on prison facilities.
According to the newspaper, Lord Justice Edis, the senior presiding judge for England and Wales, has ordered the postponement of sentencing for convicted criminals who are currently on bail until Monday.
A senior Crown Court judge mentioned that judges have been “ordered/strongly encouraged” not to send defendants who are on bail to prison in order to avoid adding to the prison population. The judge stated, “We have been told that this is a ‘short-term measure,’ but nobody knows what that means.”
When discussing sexual offenders, the judge expressed concerns about the possibility of individuals accused of historic rape, rape involving a child under 13, and other sexual assaults being granted bail even if they are found guilty. The judge raised questions, saying, “What am I going to do if a jury finds someone guilty [of rape]? Do I release that person, now convicted, back into the community, where the victim might see them? What will the victim think?”
As per The Metro News, as of last Friday, the prison population in England and Wales stood at 88,016, just 654 below the estimated capacity, according to figures from the Ministry of Justice.
The government’s promise to construct 20,000 new prisons, a significant Conservative manifesto commitment in the 2019 election, has been quietly abandoned. Plans for three new prisons in Lancashire, Leicestershire, and Buckinghamshire have all been delayed due to planning permission issues. Justice secretary Alex Chalk raised a potential solution at last week’s annual Conservative Party Conference.