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 Powers of the courts - tagging 
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Tagging 10 year-olds and above

In the UK electronic tagging was first seen in 1995.  Described by Home Secretary David Blunkett as a 'prisons without walls'.

 

It is officially known as the Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme, and became widely used in 1999 following the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.

 

Originally used to release prisoners early to serve out the remainder of their sentence between two and 12 weeks early

 

Tagging can be used as a condition of bail, or an alternative to custody. 

 

As an alternative disposal for offenders it can (in theory) be used from 10 upwards.

 

As a bail condition it can also be used for adults (those aged 17 and above) which tackles the problem of those who repeatedly break the conditions of their bail and re-offend.

 

Technology

Since 2004, tags have had global satellite positioning potential. 

 

The tags can be easily removed and some critics point out that the monitoring is not sufficiently rigorous.  Tall buildings interfere with the radio signal further discrediting the system.

 

The MoJ published a report in July 2007 on the pilot scheme that throws some doubt on total effectiveness.  When offenders were asked directly if satellite tracking had helped them ‘to stay out of trouble’, 46% replied ‘yes’.

 

Sentences - maximum period 3 and 6 months

The Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 allows for curfew tag sentences on offenders in the 10-15 age group, for a maximum of 3 months: offenders can be under curfew (usually to stay at home) from between 2 to 12 hours a day,  or up to 6 months (for 16 - 18 year olds).

A person has to agree to be given a curfew order by the court.

 

System discredited by some

Repeated breaches of tagging controls go unpunished, leading to a widespread discrediting of the system.

 

Many offenders who are tagged come from dysfunctional backgrounds or have mental health problems, or both. Most are repeat offenders. All are supported by sustained supervisory attention, often on a one-to-one basis.

 

Curfew periods usually fall outside the daytime which saves as many offenders as possible from being locked up in Secure Centres (under 15s and Young Offender Institutions (15 to 20-year-olds).

 

Cost benefits

Prison for a year costs a minimum of £24,000. Tagging an offender costs £2,000.

 

The growth of electronic monitoring has not been as rapid as some would like.  The Offender's Tag Association, a penal reform group that promotes such schemes, says that Home Detention Curfews could be used for twice the number of offenders currently tagged.

 

Home Detention Curfew (HDC)

Prisoners sentenced to between three months and four years in prison can be released early (usually 60 days) on a licence that includes a curfew condition. They are electronically tagged and must reside at a specified address. Curfew is usually 7pm -7am.

Under the scheme offenders are electronically tagged upon their release from jail and told to observe a curfew.

 

Originally, eligible prisoners could be released up to 60 days before the end of the custodial part of their sentences, but this limit was raised in 2003 to 135.

 

If the tag is interfered with the offender can be immediately returned to prison to complete their sentence.

 

A person can be recalled to prison for failure to comply or in order to protect public. Research by Dodgson (2001) found that in first 16 months of HDC, only 5% were recalled to prison.

 

Also here.

 

Advantages

Eases transition from prison to home, offenders very positive about scheme, influences prison behaviour.

 

Quarter of all tags interfered with

In 2005 to 2006, private security companies who monitor tagged suspects reported 11,435 breaches of the conditions imposed by courts, primarily night-time curfews.

 

In the year to March 2007, the total number of reported breaches rose to 43,843, according to statistics from the Ministry of Justice.

In 2005 to 2006, there were 1,073 "deliberate tag tampers (including removals)". That figure rose by 80 per cent in 2007 to 1,942 incidents.

 

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