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Across the CJS

Sentencing & the Criminal Courts

What is preventing fair and effective courts and sentencing?

Magistrates and judges have a range of options for dealing with people who have committed a crime. But sentences handed down are often ineffective in reducing crime. For example, the government’s own research has shown that people are more likely to reoffend if they are given a short prison sentence compared to a community sentence, but the use of community sentences has almost halved over the last decade. Sentence lengths have also been increasing despite no clear evidence this reduces crime, and courts remand too many people in custody while they await trial, contributing to overcrowding in prisons.

The CJA advocates for smarter sentencing which better helps people turn away from crime.

The Law Courts

Our recent work:

Reducing the use of imprisonment

The CJA recently published a briefing ahead of the government’s Prisons White Paper. In the briefing, we opposed the unnecessary prison building plans and set out how the government can reduce the prison population through smart community sentencing to truly help people turn away from crime.

Find out more

How the PCSC Bill will deepen racial inequality

The CJA and a coalition of criminal justice and race equality organisations have been working together to raise concerns that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill will deepen racial inequality in the criminal justice system. We wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister and produced a briefing highlighting how changes to sentencing will have a disproportionate impact on Black, Asian and minority ethnic people.

Remand Expert Group

The CJA works to reduce the use of remand. Our Remand Expert Group, made up of members working within criminal courts and sentencing, informs this work. The group meets regularly to discuss trends and identify opportunities. We use their insights to influence policy makers.

If you’re interested in joining this group, contact the CJA Director.

Responding to the sentencing White Paper

In September 2020, the government published a White Paper setting out its plans for sentencing. We worked with members to respondwelcoming some positive proposals but raising significant concerns about changes which will mean more people being sent to prison and for longer periods of time. Read our briefing on the sentencing White Paper and read the government’s response.

Custody Time Limits

In September 2020, the Ministry of Justice extended the amount of time someone can be kept in prison awaiting trial before a judge must review their case. The government introduced this extension to the Custody Time Limit due to the large backlog in cases in the criminal courts. We wrote a letter to the Justice Secretary, as well as an article for the Justice Gap, calling for the government to invest in increasing court capacity rather extending the Custody Time Limit. Read the government’s response 

Routes to recovery from the pandemic

The pandemic has piled pressure on the already struggling courts, exacerbating the significant backlog in criminal cases. In the summer of 2020, we brought together members to discuss challenges during the pandemic and what is needed for recovery. Members working in courts and sentencing discussed the use of remand, the advantages and disadvantages of virtual hearings, pressure on Family Drug and Alcohol Courts and more. 

Find out more