Budget: Chancellor Rishi Sunak to unveil £70m package to ‘toughen up’ probation measures

This includes an additional £30m for tackling domestic violence and supporting victims of rape and sexual abuse

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 10 March 2020 08:22

Rishi Sunak is to announce a £70m package to “toughen up” measures for criminals on probation, including the rollout of tagging devices monitoring whether they have consumed alcohol.

Unveiling the Budget on Wednesday, the chancellor will outline the funds, including an additional £30m for tackling domestic abuse and supporting victims of rape and sexual abuse.

Under the plans, the Treasury said those released from prison on licence will have tighter constraints impose on their probation period, such as stricter curfews and an increase in the hours of unpaid work offenders are required to carry out.

The additional funds for the probation service could see those guilty of alcohol-related offences forced to wear an electronic tag on their ankle that not only monitors their location but also samples skin perspiration every 30 minutes to determine whether drink has been consumed.

Boris Johnson piloted putting sobriety tags on offenders when he was mayor of London but, despite a compliance rate of 92 per cent, the scheme was discontinued and never rolled out nationally.

It comes after ministers were forced to reverse Chris Grayling’s part privatisation of the probation sector last spring following the failure to bring down reoffending rates, costing taxpayers millions.

Speaking ahead of the Budget, Mr Sunak said: “Keeping our streets safe is one of the people’s priorities – we are already delivering on this by hiring 20,000 new police officers and building 10,000 new prison places.

“At the Budget we will go even further with new funding to toughen up community sentences, crack down on domestic abuse and provide victims with the support they need.”

The extra money to support domestic and sexual abuse victims will include hiring sexual advisers who are “trained to guide and support victims through the justice system”.

The government hopes the added funding will speed up charging decisions, while also providing extra online resources for victims of rape and sexual abuse, including a single digital hub.

In response, Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: “ A decade of cuts under the Conservatives has undermined the police and left victims without support.

“Official data shows there were nearly 2.5 million domestic abuse cases in the latest 12 months. So this funding, even if it is new money, really is a drop in the ocean compared to what’s needed.”

The Liberal Democrats’ justice spokesperson Daisy Cooper, added: “Too many people feel unsafe in their own homes and walking down their own streets. The criminal justice system is failing to rehabilitate people, leading to more crimes and more victims.

“For far too long, the Conservatives have been so desperate to appear tough on crime that they have failed to properly invest in the things that help people build lives free from crime.

“The government does need to invest in probation and improve the supervision of people released on licence. But it also needs to invest in rehabilitative services, both in prison and in the community, to enable people who have committed crimes to turn their lives around.”

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