Electronic tags fail to prevent offenders from dodging curfews

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The Independent Online

Electronic tagging is failing to cut crime, ministers will be warned today in a report that also exposes dangerous breaches of what has become a central part of the Government's criminal justice programme.

Electronic tagging is failing to cut crime, ministers will be warned today in a report that also exposes dangerous breaches of what has become a central part of the Government's criminal justice programme.

The findings will embarrass the Home Office which this month signed a multi-million deal with two private security companies as part of its plan to double the number of tagging orders by 2008. Research by the probation union, Napo, has found dozens of offenders are breaching their curfew orders without being brought back to court.

In one of the worst tagging violations, Peter Williams, 19, was sentenced to life last month for the murder of the jeweller Marian Bates, 64, shot dead as she tried to protect her daughter during a raid in Nottingham. Williams had removed an electronic tag imposed after he was freed from a young offenders' institute just before the killing, but that was not detected by Premier Monitoring, one of the firms due to have its contract extended this month.

In today's report probation workers say that one offender violated his order 34 times before being taken back to court. Another breached 17 times, including two absences for the full 12-hour curfew period, before action was taken.

Home Office research found that 75 per cent of offenders aged from 10 to 17 are reconvicted within 12 months of completion of a tagged order. Of those sentenced to a period in a young offenders' institution, 69 per cent are reconvicted.

Napo says the total spent by the Home Office on both curfew orders and the home detention curfew scheme over the past four years is more than £220m.

The cost of supervising individuals by the Probation Service on community orders or parole is less than half the cost of electronic monitoring, and the outcomes are better, Napo says.