European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment


Remand detention
Extract from the 26th General Report of the CPT,
published in 2017



In many European countries, the persistent problem of overcrowding in prisons, with all its
related challenges, has to be ascribed to a large extent to the high proportion among the total prison
population of remand prisoners (i.e. prisoners who are detained by court order and are still awaiting
their trial or have not been convicted by a final judgment). However, this is not the only reason why
the CPT pays close attention to remand prisoners during its visits. In the CPT’s experience, remand
prisoners in particular are all too often held in dilapidated and overcrowded cells and are frequently
subjected to an impoverished regime. In a number of visit reports, the CPT has taken the view that
the conditions of detention of remand prisoners in the establishments visited were totally
unacceptable and could easily be considered to be inhuman and degrading. Moreover, remand
prisoners are frequently subjected to various types of restrictions (in particular as regards contacts
with the outside world), and, in a number of countries, certain remand prisoners are held in solitary
confinement by court order (sometimes for prolonged periods).
The CPT also wishes to stress that, for the individual, detention on remand can have severe
psychological effects – suicide rates among remand prisoners can be several times higher than
among sentenced prisoners1 – and other serious consequences, such as the breaking up of family
ties or the loss of employment or accommodation.
Within the Council of Europe area, the frequency and duration of remand detention appears
to differ enormously in practice from one country to another, with the proportion of remand
prisoners of the total prison population ranging from 8% to 70%. On average, some 25% of all
prisoners in the Council of Europe area are on remand. For foreign nationals in remand detention,
the proportion is significantly higher, with an average of some 40% of the overall number of
imprisoned foreign nationals.2
Due to its intrusive nature and bearing in mind the principle of presumption of innocence, the basic
tenet is that remand detention should only be used as a measure of last resort (ultima ratio). It
should be imposed for the shortest time possible and should be based on a case-by-case evaluation
of the risks of committing a new crime, of absconding, or of tampering with evidence or witnesses


Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics, SPACE I – Prison Populations, Survey 2015, PC-CP (2016) 6,
15 December 2016, tables 5.1 and 13.1.
Council of Europe Annual Penal Statistics, SPACE I – Prison Populations, Survey 2015, PC-CP (2016) 6,
15 December 2016, tables 4 and 5.1.

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