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Path of little resistance: is pre-trial detention of children really a last resort?

Fionnuala Ratcliffe and Penelope Gibbs
23 Dec 2018

Too many children are imprisoned before a court has found them innocent or guilty. Remand – as this type of imprisonment is known – has many negative consequences for a child. It deprives them of their liberty when they protest their innocence, disrupts education, severs positive social relationships with family and friends, and is a traumatic experience.

Despite only being intended as a last resort, evidence shows that remand is used more often than necessary. Remanded children now make up 45% of the child prison population. Most children who are remanded do not go on to receive a prison sentence. A significant proportion have been charged with non-violent offences.

The population of children on remand also represents one of the starkest racial disparities in the criminal justice system, with a particular overrepresentation of Black and Mixed Heritage boys. Research shows that defendants from minoritised communities are more likely to be acquitted or their cases discontinued than other defendants.

This report analyses existing data on the children who are imprisoned on remand, and the reasons why they are remanded, and puts forward recommendations for practice change that would bring about a reduction in the number of children imprisoned on remand.