Remanding women : a qualitative study of magistrates' decisions in contested remand hearings in three metropolitan boroughs
This thesis examines magistrates' decision-making in contested remand hearings in three boroughs of a large English city. The remand hearings for sixty four women (103 separate court appearances) who were 'at risk' of a custodial remand were observed. The first section describes how the wide scope for discretionary practice and the weak regulatory structures in the remand system allowed the legal framework to be interpreted in different ways. It is argued that remand decision making was influenced by the socio-political and organisational contexts within which it took place. These contexts contributed to actors' understandings of what custodial remands were 'for', thus affecting remand outcomes. In the second section it is argued that actors employed different models of remand to reach decisions, depending on which of the contradictory goals (legal and extra-legal) of the remand system they were attempting to satisfy. Information was filtered and bail law was selectively applied depending on how magistrates' defined individual cases. Gender considerations were found to significantly feature in magistrates' decisions when cases were on the 'cusp' between conditional bail and custodial remand. The final section examines how the remand models were translated into practice in the social world of the magistrates' court. The goals of the three models were observed to fit into, and compete with, the variety of roles and responsibilities that court actors had; the application of bail law was found to be a social process as well as a legal one. Lastly, structural influences, such as 'court culture' and patterns of deference, on courts' social processes are explored. The thesis concludes that the majority of remand decisions are based on the seriousness of the offence but magistrates are influenced by personal characteristics, such as gender, in 'cusp' cases. It suggests a model of remand decision making for women in which different types of cases and defendants are processed according to different rationales.