HC Deb 26 January 2004 vol 417 cc239-40W
Joan Ruddock

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps the Government are taking to reduce the number of women held on remand. [142892]

Paul Goggins

The significant increase in the female prison population, and the wider consequences of this in terms of disruption to their families, particularly their children, underlines the importance of using custody as a last resort.

The Women's Offending Reduction Programme (WORP) is a three-year programme that aims to promote a more focused and joined-up response to the range of factors that have an impact on why women offend.

A long-term aim of the WORP is to reduce the number of women in custody. We are particularly concerned about the 58 per cent. of women held on remand who do not go on to receive a custodial sentence. This is why the WORP focuses on the need to maximise the opportunities for diversion at the pre-sentence stage.

Gender specific training and guidance for sentencers, court report writers and bail information staff will be supported by the development of more appropriate community interventions that are better tailored to meet the needs of women, particularly those with mental health and substance misuse problems. Ensuring appropriate housing or bail hostel provision for women will also be key to reducing the use of remand. The potential for diversion is likely to be increased by improving the court's confidence in available community provision.