Revealed: Public no longer know when criminals walk out of court free

Changes to the law on remand will hinder the public from knowing when a convicted criminal walks free from the court, can reveal.

Under plans which came into force yesterday, judges no longer have to announce how many days spent remanded in custody are being deducted from criminals' sentences.

The policy change makes no difference to actual sentences, but it has a significant effect on the public's access to information about the punishment of offenders.

Some criminals walk free at the point of sentencing because they have already served the time in remand. That fact will no longer be observed by the judge at the point of sentencing.

The move means the public will have no idea whether criminals are being handed sentences which effectively set them free immediately.

The change in the law hands remand announcements to detention facilities, but public and press in the court room will not be told whether time in remand has already been added to the sentence the criminal receives.

While the court room is likely to hear about the time in remand when the barrister appeals to the judge, that submission may not happen at the same time as sentencing.

Remand is used to keep suspects in detention before a court case, usually because there is a strong risk they will not turn up to trial.

Common reasons for keeping suspects in remand include not having an address, a history of absconding, a risk of committing similar crimes or a risk to witnesses. Otherwise, there is usually a presumption in favour of bail.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "These changes will make the process for calculating remand time more straight-forward and efficient without making any material difference to prisoners' sentences. Victim liaison officers will keep victims informed about the release dates of offenders."