Duncan Lewis


Asylum, Detention/ Fast Track

Managed Migration, Public Law

Electronic tagging on criminals is outdated and expensive says a report by think tank

Date: (24 September 2012)    |    

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A study has revealed that electronic tagging of criminals had cost the government over £1billion in 13 years but was not effective in controlling them from committing crime by day.
The technology being used in tagging was outdated and was ten times more expensive than that was being in use in the US rendering offenders unmonitored when not under curfew at home the think tank Policy Exchange has said.
The study has recommended new tags to monitor criminal’s every movement using GPS technology. About 80,000 offenders were tagged every year, including former prisoners released early and criminals serving community sentences.
Most are required to be at home between 7pm and 7am, when their tag works in tandem with a monitoring device. But the report says night-time curfews did not prevent reoffending during the day.
A study earlier this year had revealed that six in ten tagged criminals had broken terms of their curfew. But it found that they could be at home for as little as one minute of a single 12-hour period and still get off with only a warning.
Critics have said tagging was wrongly used as a cheap alternative to prison. When tags were introduced, politicians said they would act as a ‘prison without bars’, but the latest report has stated otherwise.
Researchers also called for police and probation officials to help monitor offenders instead of the private companies doing the work as being done now. They said the existing system, operated by G4S, the firm behind the Olympic security shambles, and Serco, which was outdated and expensive.
Handing control of tagging to the police would save £70million a year, which could recruit an additional 1,200 police officers. The report said tagging cost £13.14 a day per criminal in England and Wales, compared with only £1.22 in the US.
Under Ministry of Justice plans, the use of tagging was expected to grow sharply in coming years, with criminals placed on longer curfews. But probation unions say such plans means tagging up to 180,000 criminals which would put the public at risk.
Former assistant chief constable Chris Miller, who was in charge of tagging for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said in a foreword to the report that they were have been given a sclerotic, centrally controlled, top-down system that has enriched two or three large suppliers, that lacks the innovation and flexibility of international comparators and that fails to demonstrate either that it is value for money or that it does anything to reduce offending.
In August last year two G4S workers were sacked after they placed an electronic tag on an offender’s false leg, which he could take it off.
Christopher Lowcock fooled the staff by wrapping his prosthetic limb in a bandage and got the device set up to it in his home. The 29-year-old was under curfew for drinking and driving, and carrying an offensive weapon, but by removing his leg he was able to leave his home without detection.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the government was committed to ensure electronic monitoring was an effective tool in supporting the punishment of offenders and helping make the communities safer, and were already taking forward some of the proposals in this report.