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12th Oct 2023

Judges ordered not to jail burglars and rapists because prisons are full

Jack Peat

There are suggestions the UK could rent prison space from other countries

Rapists, burglars and other criminals will be spared jail from next week after judges were told that the country’s prisons are literally full.

The UK’s prison population has reached breaking point following the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the latest figures, there are now 88,016 prisoners locked up – just hundreds short of the overall capacity across the whole prison estate.

Andrea Albut, president of the Prison Governors’ Association, recently told The Daily Telegraph that jails in England and Wales are “bust” of space and may run out of places to house offenders this week.

She said male jails are running at more than 99.6 per cent of capacity and women’s prisons are 96 per cent full.

Lord Edis, the senior presiding judge in England and Wales, has ordered, during a meeting with senior judges, that sentencing of convicted criminals who are currently on bail be delayed from Monday, The Times reported.

The newspaper said those spared being put behind bars could include those found guilty of burglary and rape.

The Times quoted an anonymous senior judge as saying that they had been “ordered/strongly encouraged” not to send to prison a defendant who appears before them on bail due to concerns that the prison system is at capacity.

The Judicial Office, which supports the judiciary, said it would not comment on what was said during an internal meeting.

It has recently been suggested that the UK could ‘rent’ prison spaces from other countries to free up space.

Alex Chalk used his key note speech at the Tory Party conference in Manchester to announce the Government intends to look “at the Norwegian example and explore renting overseas capacity”.

The Ministry of Justice (Moj) says that while progress is made on the prison build programme, all necessary measures need to be taken to ensure “dangerous criminals continue to see the inside of a prison cell”.

The Government’s plans to create 20,000 extra prison places by the mid 2020s are reportedly delayed due to planning disagreements.

The proposed law would allow the Government to work with international partners on mutually beneficial agreements to house prisoners offshore.

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