BEDFORDSHIRE'S Police and Crime Commissioner, Olly Martins, is calling for the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to speed up the introduction of compulsory GPS tagging of known offenders to reduce crime and the number of victims.
“We have the technology and we know it works,” he commented, “but we are still not allowed to use it to its full potential.
It’s like driving a Ferrari with the handbrake on.”
The Commissioner was referring to the MOJ’s confirmation this week that whilst GPS or locational tags will be available in the future, helping to pinpoint known offenders at any given time, the MOJ still needs to update the legislation governing who is responsible for monitoring offenders.
Until this happens the possibilities of GPS technology, beyond traditional curfew tagging, will not be realised.
The Commissioner said: “To be truly effective these new generation GPS tags should be fitted when offender management teams and the courts think they will most help tackle reoffending and thereby reduce the number of victims. At the moment they can only be fitted for purposes beyond enforcing a curfew if the offender agrees.
“I am aware that the law needs changing if we are to see compulsory GPS tagging, but the MOJ took over 18 months to make a decision on who will supply these tags in the future, and I hope they do not take that long to make the necessary legislation changes.”
The Commissioner is pleased that the MOJ has listened to the evidence from the pilots in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and elsewhere and is going to legislate for tracking to be included as part of a community order or a suspended sentence order, in his view the MOJ is still missing a trick as GPS tags can be used in far more situations than the old fashioned tag.
“You can use it effectively in situations where there is an exclusion zone in place” he said. “It would be very useful as a condition of bail, for prisoners released on license, to ensure that sex offenders are indeed staying away from sensitive areas, that people convicted of domestic abuse are not harassing their victims and so on. GPS tagging is already being used in some of these situations in other countries.
“And, as time goes on, the technology will develop still further and we need to be able to take advantage of that.
"For example, sobriety bracelets, which have been successfully trialled by some UK police forces and are common in the US, help deter criminals convicted of alcohol-related offences from drinking. But we need the freedom to use the tools available in order to reduce the number of victims and cut the cost of crime.”
Trials in Bedfordshire showed that GPS tags delivered a reduction in crime, a decrease in unnecessary arrests and investigations, better intelligence for investigating officers and a marked increase in compliance with the terms of their licence by offenders being managed through the integrated offender management (IOM) programme.
Back in March the Commissioner wrote a letter to the Justice Secretary, signed by over two-thirds of PCCs, which called for a more local approach to the provision of electronic monitoring, and pointed out that PCCs are in a better position to tailor the service to local needs and help create a more diverse and competitive marketplace.
His letter is cited in a report published today by Policy Exchange, acknowledging the benefits of GPS tags.