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Remand or Bail

Remand or Bail

Lincoln Gaol
Lincoln Gaol

While they were waiting for trial, prisoners could be remanded in custody (kept in the gaol) or given bail (pay money to guarantee that they would turn up for the trial). Most stayed in the gaol because they were too poor to pay. The Gaol was usually very overcrowded just before an Assizes.

After hearing statements from the various parties, the magistrates were required to commit the accused to await trial, and 'bind' over the victim (and sometimes the witnesses) to appear in court to prosecute the case. This meant, if they did not appear they would have to pay the amount they were bound over for, usually £20-£40 a massive amount in those days.

Increasingly over the course of the 19th century, however, magistrates dismissed weak cases and only committed the accused to prison if they felt the evidence was sufficient to merit a trial.

Before 1826, accused felons were rarely bailed; those accused of misdemeanours (lesser crimes) were normally bound over to appear at the next meeting of the court, to answer the charges against them.

Prisoners on remand were still legally innocent until proven guilty, so their treatment in prison varied from other groups. They could not be forced to work and had better food rations. For more details see types of prisoner in the gaols section.