Group 4 to be grilled by MPs over electronic tagging

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The Independent Online

Anglo-Danish security specialist Group 4 Securicor has been called before the Committee for Public Accounts after a government report highlighted concerns about criminal tagging.

The National Audit Office published its report on the electronic monitoring of adult offenders earlier this month. It found the system was a cost-effective alternative to prison, and praised it for being value for money.

But it also said that only 85 per cent of offenders in the cases it had reviewed had been tagged on time. And where the offender's curfew had been breached, it found 35 per cent of cases were not reported to the Home Office by contractors within 24 hours.

Since the report, whistleblowers at G4S have also claimed that the technology used by the group in tagging is not always effective.

G4S and fellow tagging pro- vider Serco - which has around 3,600 offenders under surveillance - will go before the committee next month, along with the Home Office permanent secretary Sir David Normington.

G4S's chief executive, Nick Buckles, recently told The Independent on Sunday that tagging was "96 per cent reliable" and the NAO report was "very positive". A spokesman added: "The report says tagging is an excellent way of keeping people of jail. It's an efficient system. Someone is in breach if they are outside their house for one second [after curfew]. There's always going to be the odd thing that makes the news."

A Serco spokesman added: "The technology works extremely well. We're looking forward to talking to the committee about our work and our performance."

G4S is currently developing tags that use satellites to track offenders, and is in talks with a number of other countries, including Israel. Serco, which operates four prisons in the UK, provides tagging technology for a number of countries, including Austria and Canada.

After the hearing, the cross-party committee - which has 16 members and scrutinises public spending - will report its findings in two to three months.