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April 25, 2005: Probation Union Napo Calls for End to Tagging

Probation Union Napo has called for the scrapping of the electronically monitored curfew order which is administered by private security companies. In a briefing paper, Napo argues that the electronically monitored curfew order:

  • is far too expensive
  • does not affect crime
  • has aspects which are ineffective

More than 25,000 offenders were tagged in the 12 months to April 2005. Curfew orders were first introduced in 1995 and by 2003 around 15,000 orders a year were made by the Courts. Individual convicted offenders can be given a curfew order by the court for up to 6 months with a maximum of 12 hours per day. In addition the individual is fitted with an electronic tag and is monitored at a remote control centre. The Home Detention Curfew, a form of early release of prisoners was introduced in 1999 with the provision of electronic tagging and by October 2004 101,000 prisoners had been released under the scheme.

However, figures researched by Napo show that the Government is paying the private sector £1,700 per order, yet the outlay by the companies can be no more than £600 per order, and that for cases where there is call out for a violation.

The total amount spent by the Home Office on both curfew orders and the Home Detention Curfew Scheme over the last 4 years is in excess of £220 million. Yet the cost of supervising individuals by the Probation Service on community orders or parole is less than half the cost of electronic monitoring, and the outcomes are certainly better. The taxpayer could have saved, therefore, over £110 million over the last 4 years if community alternatives had been used.

In addition, the Home Office has known since 1994 that electronic monitoring could neither reduce crime nor stop offenders committing further offences. Yet the Home Office is only now admitting that there is no evidence to show that it has any impact on crime.

Case studies published by Napo also show that violations of the tag are not routinely followed up by the companies nor are the violations routinely recorded. Staff are reporting that multiple violations are not being brought back to court. In the worst case one offender violated the order 34 times before being taken back to court, and another breached 17 times including 2 absences for the full 12 hour curfew period before any action was taken.

Napo Assistant General Secretary Harry Fletcher said:

“Electronic Monitoring is now a multi-million pound business set for a major expansion after the election, yet the figures clearly show that the profit is huge and hardly value for money. It is also extraordinary that violations are not monitored or routinely followed up. There is an overwhelming case for the withdrawal of the curfew order. The time is surely right for an independent assessment of this concept.”

The Napo briefing paper can be downloaded here. Probation Service guidance on the Home Detention Curfew is available here.