PCCs lead calls for satellite tags on offenders

Tracking people using GPS devices raises concerns among civil liberties groups

Britain's new police and crime commissioners (PCCs) want to use a controversial GPS tagging system to keep track of repeat offenders at all times.

More than two-thirds of the PCCs have written to the Government demanding a multi-million-pound upgrade of the present system of "curfew tagging" to improve monitoring of the most persistent criminals.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) devices, labelled "chav nav" by some supporters, are credited with slashing crime rates in countries where they are already used. Experts claim tracing offenders' movements changes their behaviour and makes them less likely to reoffend. At present, tagging bracelets alert authorities only when an offender has broken a curfew. Current laws prevent GPS tags from being used on a compulsory basis. The security firm G4S is in the running for the £1bn contract for the Coalition's new offender-tracking system. The firm told MPs GPS tracking could make curfews "tougher, targeted and more effective".

But civil liberties groups have warned that the new tags could amount to unwarranted intrusion into offenders' lives. The Bedfordshire PCC, Olly Martins, said offenders who volunteered to wear the £250 GPS tags during a pilot in his area were linked with three offences. Before the pilot, they had been connected to 459 crimes which cost the taxpayer £1.4m.

In a letter to the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, signed by 26 fellow PCCs, Mr Martins said: "This technology clearly has the potential to make a significant impact on offending behaviour and thereby cut crime – one of the Government's top priorities.

"The next generation of tags are set to have the capability not just to provide location data but also to monitor sweat for drug and alcohol content. PCCs are ideally placed to devise the initiatives that can explore the potential of this technology to the full."

The GPS system tracks an offender's movements and sends data to a website that police can use to track locations, journeys and even speeds travelled. But the Howard League for Penal Reform warned: "There are clear civil liberty concerns stemming from this proposal that MPs will want to consider."

The Justice Minister, Jeremy Wright, said the next generation of electronic monitoring contracts "will introduce the most advanced tracking technology … that can be deployed robustly".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine