THE average daily population in Scottish prisons fell by around 10% last year as a result of Covid-related health measures, a new report has found.

Scottish Government data shows the average daily prison population in 2020-21 was 7337, down from 8200 the previous year.

It then rose again and broadly stabilised from September 2020 at around 7500.  

During the pandemic, the Lord Advocate issued revised guidelines on the use of police custody whilst many courts were forced to close for extended periods or operate at a reduced capacity.

Meanwhile, prisons had to ensure sufficient space to allow prisoners to observe Covid guidelines properly.

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While the average daily population fell, the untried prison population increased by almost 18%, rising from about 1178 on an average day in 2019-20 to around 1384 in 2020-21.

However, the number of people who had been sentenced or were awaiting sentence was down on the previous year.

The report said: “Combined, these changes have shifted the balance between legal statuses (remand and sentenced) in the prison population.

“In 2020-21, 22% of the prison population were held on remand on an average day – the largest proportion ever recorded.”

The number of women in prison on an average day in 2020-21 fell more than the population of men across the same period.

While the average daily population of men fell 10% between 2019-20 and 2020-21 (from 7793 to 7037), the women’s population fell 26% (from 402 to 300).