child finger painting of family

The period of uncertainty

The period of detention when on remand represents a particularly difficult time for children of those arrested, and for remand prisoners. The remand into custody of one parent means that the remaining parent suddenly becomes a single carer. Where a single parent is arrested, the anxiety around the situation of children left behind can cause immense stress to the parent and children alike. Families find themselves in often unfamiliar situations (particularly those for whom remand is a new experience), having to deal with loss of contact, loss of income, legal procedures, involvement of social services in their life, and so on. The desire to attend the court to support the arrested parent may cause difficulties in arranging childcare and put a lot of pressure on the parent remaining with the children at home.

Additional stress is brought on children due to the uncertainty of the outcome of criminal investigation and the lack of information given to families about things like visiting rights and procedures. They also face the anxiety around whether to let their relatives and friends know about the fact of arrest and the criminal charges. The period of imprisonment on remand is therefore full of uncertainty and stress.

In a lot of ways, the time on remand is different to the period of imprisonment upon sentence. In particular, the prosecutors and the police may be concerned that the accused will try to influence witnesses or in other ways try to derail the criminal investigation. For those reasons, in some countries remand prisoners are not allowed contact with the outside world or such contact is severely limited.

From the perspective of the rights of the child to meaningful contact with their parent, restrictions regarding contact with the parent held on remand should only ever be in place when absolutely necessary. Legal provisions supporting the right of individual children to contact independent from that of their parent should be replicated across all European legal systems.

For further information on the pretrial detention period, read the EU funded special edition newsletter focused on judges and police.

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