Tagging of offenders poised to return: Despite earlier failures, a Bill before Parliament allows use of electronic monitoring

Electronic tagging for offenders is to be reintroduced by the Government, despite being abandoned more than three years ago after disastrous pilot schemes.

New powers, included in the Criminal Justice Bill currently before Parliament, will enable courts to sentence criminals to curfew orders, which will be electronically monitored. Offenders convicted of crimes such as theft, minor assaults, stealing cars and burglary, are expected to be given the new punishments and fitted with tags, probably around their ankles. The tags produce signals which alert a supervisor, usually a private security guard, if the offender leaves home.

Electronic monitoring - inspired by an American comic character King Pin, who used electronic surveillance to track his arch enemy Spiderman - will be introduced for nine months in Manchester, Reading and Norfolk next January. The Home Office has more than pounds 1.3m to spend on the project and, if successful, hopes to set up a national scheme.

Tagging was first used in Nottingham, Newcastle and London in 1989. In that experiment, people were tagged instead of being locked up awaiting a court appearance. Probation officers claimed it degenerated into an expensive fiasco.

Of the 49 subjects, 29 either breached their conditions or committed another offence. In all there were 217 violations. In one case a man absconded for several weeks and when he was found he was charged with murder, for which he later received a life sentence. Another man in Tyneside jumped out of the dock and escaped before the tag could be fitted. There were also dozens of equipment failures.

In 1992, the Home Office said the scheme was being dropped because of expense - it was estimated that it would have cost up to pounds 60m to introduce it country-wide.

The Home Office is confident that developments in technology will produce better results than in 1989 when the tags had to be plugged into a telephone connected to the local police station, or security guard, to show wearers were observing their curfew.

Private security officers employed by the electronics company which provides the equipment and, in some cases, probation officers or local authority staff, are expected to monitor the tagged offenders. Courts will be able to combine community service orders with the new electronic curfew sentences.

The Home Office also wants to establish the cost and effectiveness of the new orders.

The government plans are contained in a letter from Hugh Marriage, the deputy head of the Probation Service division at the Home Office, which contains details about the electronic monitoring and the curfew order in advance of the Criminal Justice Bill being given parliamentary assent. The House of Lords is expected to debate it in committee on 16 May.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said: 'Ministers have failed to realise that a punishment that might act as a deterrent for them does not act as a deterrent for many offenders who, by and large, lead chaotic lives, may have mental health, drink and drug problems, are disorganised, unemployed and tend to have unsettled home lives.'

Rosemary Thomson, chairwoman of the Magistrates' Association, said that they were 'sceptical' given their experience of the earlier trials.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own