Letter: Too many people want to play Big Brother

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From Mr Paul Cavadino

Sir: Following the second arrest of the first convicted offender to be electronically tagged in this country ("First tag man arrested again", 1 September), the grotesque misuse of public money involved in this experiment is becoming increasingly clear.

During the Home Office's earlier pilot trials in 1989, in which bailed defendants were tagged, three busy courts found only 50 people in six months whom they thought suitable for electronic monitoring. Of these, 29 (58 per cent) offended or otherwise breached bail conditions during the period of tagging. Yet pounds 700,000, or pounds 14,000 per tagged defendant (at 1989-90 prices), was wasted on this unsuccessful experiment. This high per capita figure arose from the fixed costs of the equipment and staff who were needed to run the system, however few people were tagged. Unsurprisingly, the Home Office's own research evaluation concluded that the trials were "not cost-effective".

The cost of the current trials in three courts is estimated at pounds 1.4m, an investment which has so far produced four tagging orders since early July. This is an appalling waste of resources which could be put to many better uses within the criminal justice system.

More constructive sentences such as probation, community service and supervision orders, which involve working with offenders to change their attitudes and behaviour, are much more likely to lead them towards law- abiding lives. If the funds devoted to this misguided experiment were switched to such measures, they could divert many more people from custody and from crime.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Cavadino


Penal Affairs Consortium

London, SW9

1 September