Expanding tagging sentences

Increased monitoring, greater support and new technologies tested.

The Scottish Government is to continue to expand the use of electronic tags to help reduce reoffending levels and keep communities safe, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson announced today (Tuesday).

New projects will use electronic monitoring – including GPS tracking in addition to the current radio frequency technology used for home detention – to monitor people as part of their sentence building on the advice of a panel of experts and international research published today.

This expansion of electronic tagging would be used in addition to community payback orders and other measures to tackle a person’s offending behaviour while providing the added security of restricting their movements.

The government will also look at how electronic monitoring could be used ahead of sentencing in cases where the crime would be unlikely to result in a custodial punishment.

Mr Matheson said:

“The overwhelming message from the experts is that Scotland could significantly reduce reoffending by better use of electronic tagging and emerging monitoring technology. I welcome all of the recommendations the panel has made and am determined that we seize this opportunity to reduce crime even further and make our communities safer.

“Effective community sentences have driven Scotland’s reoffending rate down to a 17 year low using smarter, more effective interventions. The potential of combining community sentencing alternatives with tagging will allow us to hold people to greater account during their sentence and focus on rehabilitating them.

“There will always be crimes where a prison sentence is the only reasonable response, but international research backs our own experience that short term sentences are not the most effective way to bring down reoffending.

“This government is committed to an ambitious and progressive approach to reducing offending and we will ensure that we are using electronic tagging more effectively and in the best way possible to keep people safe.”

Professor Mike Nellis, Emeritus Professor of Criminal and Community Justice at the University of Strathclyde and member of the working group said:

"International evidence does suggest that various forms of electronic monitoring can add value to the best of what supervisors already do. The Justice Secretary's encouragement of a more integrated use of it is welcome. Within this helpful new framework, Scotland's criminal justice practitioners, including sentencers, need to work out how to use it wisely and well."

Stirling University criminologist and electronic monitoring researcher Dr Hannah Graham carried out the report studies.

She said:

“Tagging and curfews alone don’t address the underlying reasons why people commit crime, so the working group’s recommendations are welcome for how they emphasise integration with rehabilitative supports to help leave crime behind.

“There is a disproportionately high rate of people on remand in prison in Scotland. The recommendation to introduce electronic monitoring as an alternative to remand opens up extra opportunities to address this issue by closely monitoring and supporting more people in the community pre-trial, without losing sight of the need to ensure public safety.

“This announcement and the working group’s recommendations show Scotland taking a more European approach to electronic monitoring, learning from the Dutch goal-oriented approach and leading Scandinavian examples. There is good evidence underpinning these countries’ approaches, and I would argue this is a better and bolder direction for Scotland to pursue.”

Notes to editors

The working group was chaired by the Scottish Government. Members included: Nigel Ironside, Scottish Prison Service; James Maybee, Social Work Scotland; Karyn McCluskey, Violence Reduction Unit; Temporary Detective Superintendent Gail Johnston, National Offender Management Unit; Professor Mike Nellis, Strathclyde University; Peter Conlong, Scottish Government, Justice Analytical Services; Angela Smith, Service Director, G4S Monitoring Technologies & Services Scotland; Louise Johnson, Scottish Women’s Aid; Colin Spivey, Head of Parole Unit; Mark Leonard and Frank McCann from Police Scotland’s Specialist Crime Division .

The Group recommendations are:

Recommendation 1 - Technology: Introduction of GPS technology and a demonstration project to look at how Trans-dermal Alcohol Monitoring technology could be used.

Recommendation 2 - Future Service delivery: Electronic monitoring should be part of a wider package of support, be more integrated and tailored to reflect the personal circumstances of each monitored person.

Recommendation 3 - Goal-Oriented and Person Centred Approach: To help achieve Recommendation 2, a demonstration project should be undertaken to determine what ‘support’ may comprise of, how it is best delivered and the associated resource implications.

Recommendation 4 – Compliance: Effective structures and criteria should be in place to support compliance and manage non-compliance and to ensure non-compliance reporting is more consistent.

Recommendation 5 – Future uses: There is scope to extend the use of electronic monitoring within a community setting where a risk and need assessment indicates it is appropriate. These include;

  • community re-integration following prison
  • alternative to remand
  • alternative to short prison sentences
  • voluntary scheme for persistent offenders
  • alternative to secure care for young people
  • alternative to fines
  • condition of a Sexual Offences Prevention Order; and
  • condition of a Risk of a Sexual Harm Order.

Recommendation 6 – within the custodial estate: For those in custody, electronic monitoring could be utilised on some occasions for work placement, home leave, future female community custody units and prepare for release from prison.

Recommendation 7 – Legislative Changes: Amendments to primary legislation will be necessary to enable all of the recommended future uses. In addition, the Working Group recommends;

  • Removing section 16 and 17 Statutory Exclusions for HDC
  • Electronic monitoring as a requirement of a Community Payback Order
  • Introducing legislative changes to allow for the introduction of GPS technology, including amendments to Data Protection legislation
  • Enabling legislation to provide for a demonstration project on Alcohol Monitoring technology
  • Redefining an RLO as a standard standalone community sentence as opposed to an alternative to custody.

Recommendation 8 – Ownership of Electronic Monitoring: Statutory and non-statutory organisations should be invited to draft their own statement of intent around the use of electronic monitoring going forward.


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