More than a quarter of inmates in Scottish prisons have not yet been tried for their crimes, new figures have revealed.
Justice and social affairs magazine 1919 revealed that more than 2,000 inmates are on remand awaiting trial in Scotland, many of whom have been behind bars for several months.
At the beginning of August, 2,164 inmates were on remand and untried with a further 303 convicted but still awaiting sentencing.
Remand rates have increased sharply since the start of the pandemic, with statistics showing the remand population sitting at 1,114 in April 2020 but growing to more than 2,000 by September 2020.
Prisoners on remand must be accommodated separately from those serving time following a conviction.
According to the latest statistics, 33.4% of those currently on remand have been waiting beyond the 140-day mark.
Most of these were in accused of common assault, followed by crimes against public justice and threatening and abusive behaviour.
Additionally, a number of arrivals on remand related to those accused of murder and culpable homicide, rape and attempted rape, and sexual assault.
However, lower-level offences such as possession of drugs, shoplifting and wildlife offences also made appearances.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Prison Service said: “While it is not for us to determine who should be remanded to custody, the impact on our establishments is significant.
“We are managing an increasingly complex prison population. Certain demographics are unable to be located in certain establishments, or even in the same area within an establishment.
“The challenge we face on remand is also exacerbated by the court backlog, where it is routinely in excess of 140 days.
“This means they are frequently given backdated sentences, and released very soon after, which limits our window for intervention and to address issues that need to be dealt with on release.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson, Liam McArthur, said: “Far too many of those locked up are people who haven’t been convicted.
“The SNP needs to tackle lengthy court delays which are preventing people from having their cases heard and preventing victims from seeing justice done.
“We need proper investment in bail supervision orders and electronic tagging so that remand is only used where it is necessary to safeguard communities and public safety.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We remain committed to taking action to address use of remand.
“The Bail and Release from Custody Bill is currently before Parliament, and seeks to refocus how custody can be used within the criminal justice system to ensure public safety is protected.
“The Scottish Government has invested an additional £3.2m this year towards strengthening alternatives to remand, including further expansion of bail supervision.
“We have also legislated to introduce electronic monitoring of bail, a significant change, which started in May.
“This funding builds on the ongoing funding of £1.5m for bail support for women and £550,000 towards bail supervision.
“This funding is already having a positive impact in developing bail supervision services and supporting the implementation of electronically monitored bail.”