This week, the prison population rose to a record number of 88,225, a significant increase on the previous week and only around 500 places short of “operational capacity”, which is the maximum number of prisoners that can be held.

Andrea Albutt, president of the Prison Governor’s Association, said: “If the government further overcrowd our prisons, if they say to our members’ you will put more people in your already overcrowded prison’, we will take legal action.”

Such comments make it unlikely that the government will try and force prison governors to take prisoners in excess of operational capacity.

The government had planned for an extra 20,000 prison places, but beset by planning law difficulties and other obstacles, so far, only around 5,500 of those places have been delivered.

As a result, it has been reported that the Lord Chancellor will make a statement to parliament on Monday 16th October 2023 and announce a number of reforms.

Likely reforms include:

Extending early release on home detention curfew for certain prisoners.

Encouraging greater use of community penalties in place of short-term custodial sentences.

A presumption in some cases against short-term sentences of imprisonment. This is an idea that has been mooted many times in the past, and the ban may extend to penalties of up to twelve months, although six months is perhaps more likely.
Adjourning sentence of some offenders who are on bail, in order to allow the above measures to free up prison places.

A spokesperson for the Centre for Women’s Justice said: 

“It is extremely worrying to hear that sentencing decisions for serious sexual offenders may be affected by a lack of resource in the prison estate. […] victims are already being badly let down by a justice system plagued by under-resourcing: lack of police resource to investigate their cases, backlogs in the courts meaning lengthy trial delays – this is another concern to add to that list.”

As a firm, we are closely monitoring developments, and once the government announces its final plans, we will be able to offer tailored advice to our clients.


How can we help?

We ensure we keep up to date with any changes in legislation and case law so that we are always best placed to advise you properly. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, please contact our team of criminal defence specialists on: 01376 511819