Tagging offenders is expensive and archaic, says report

Tagging criminals is expensive and outdated and needs urgent reform to ensure it is effective, a report claims today.

The Policy Exchange think-tank wants the tagging system to be operated by police officers, not by the private contractors G4S and Serco.

The criticisms come three months after The Independent revealed problems with the electronic tagging of convicts. The Inspectorate of Probation has found that more than half of tagged criminals break their curfews, with 59 per cent spending more than four hours away from home without authorisation.

The investigation was carried out after it emerged that a 15-year-old boy who stabbed to death a student, Steven Grisales, 21, in Edmonton, north London in a row over conkers did so six days after breaching his curfew and may have removed his tag.

Policy Exchange claims that £70m a year would be freed up if G4S and Serco handed to police and probation officers the technology to monitor and fit the tags, instead of doing it themselves.

Chris Miller, a former assistant chief constable, warned: "What we have been given instead is 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."

The Policy Exchange report says: "Electronic monitoring in England and Wales has not kept pace with developments in new technology, and contracts over the past 13 years have failed to provide a service that involves practitioners, resulting in an unimaginative and uncreative approach to electronic monitoring and at a high cost."

Richard Morris, of G4S, said: "We are proud of our excellent track record in delivering what is the largest and most complex offender monitoring programme in the world. The use of electronic monitoring ... actually saves the taxpayer tens of millions of pounds each year by providing a robust alternative to expensive prison custody for offenders deemed suitable for tagging."