Starting next week, convicted rapists in the United Kingdom will be granted a temporary reprieve from imprisonment due to the overcrowding of the nation’s correctional facilities.
In an apparent response to the bloated prison population, Crown court judges have received instructions to postpone sentencing proceedings. Lord Edis, the chief presiding judge for England and Wales, has mandated the deferral of sentencing for convicted offenders currently out on bail starting this coming Monday.
One senior Crown court judge said that judges advised of these new measures have been “ordered/strongly encouraged” not to imprison defendants so as not to add to the prison population.
“We have been told that this is a ‘short-term measure,’ but nobody knows what that means,” the unnamed judge told The Times. The judge revealed that the main concern is regarding criminals accused of serious historic crimes such as rape, child rape, and other sexual offenses. Even if they’re found guilty, they may now be released into the community for a prolonged period of time awaiting sentencing.
“What am I going to do if a jury finds someone guilty [of rape],” the judge asked, adding: “Do I release that person who is now convicted back into the community, where the victim might see them? What will the victim think?”
According to The Times, many judges have also been advised that some prisoners will be released early under proposals from Justice Ministers.
Figures from the Ministry of Justice showed that as of last Friday, the prison population in England and Wales was 88,016, while the maximum total capacity is approximately 88,670.
Earlier this year, the Ministry released a report predicting a sharp increase in the prison population, with projected figures standing at 94,400 by spring of 2025 and exceeding 106,000 by 2027. Within the report, officials acknowledged “considerable uncertainty around how the courts will recover from COVID-19 backlogs, the impact of the additional police officers, and the future crime mix.”