Publication - Research and analysis

Development of Electronic Monitoring in Scotland - Analysis of Consultation Responses

Published: 31 Oct 2014
ISBN:
9781784128807

In September 2013, the Scottish Government embarked upon a period of consultation to examine options for the development of electronic monitoring in Scotland. This consultation sought views on the operation of the current electronic monitoring service as well as options for future development of the service.

Development of Electronic Monitoring in Scotland - Analysis of Consultation Responses
3 Radio Frequency Monitoring

3 Radio Frequency Monitoring

3.1 The consultation paper provided background information on the technology that is available and how it is used, and then explained the current legal basis for monitoring in Scotland. Information was also provided on the costs of monitoring, together with statistics on the numbers of orders and their completion rates over the last four years.

3.2 The paper went on to outline potential areas of development of the current service and seek views on ways in which electronic monitoring might be better integrated with other measures to aid reintegration and rehabilitation of offenders. It also stressed that respondents should not limit their comments to the areas outlined but also consider any other ways in which the existing electronic monitoring service can be developed and improved.

Integrating electronic monitoring with other services

3.3 The first question in the consultation asked: 'How can electronic monitoring be better integrated with other services, including statutory and third sector, in order to support a holistic approach to addressing offenders' needs?'

3.4 Forty-two responses were received to this question, including those addressed through free-flowing consultation responses. In general, the majority of those responding were broadly supportive of the development of electronic monitoring to be integrated better into the rehabilitative journey.

3.5 Only one respondent, a local authority, sought to register aversion to the extensive use of electronic monitoring stating that the value of extending its use to support a holistic approach to addressing offenders` needs is currently unsubstantiated. Their argument was that those who engage in offending behaviour require opportunities to address the root causes of offending to transform behaviour in the long-term. The local authority commented that:

"While there may be some evidence to support compulsory attendance to address criminogenic factors, it is doubtful that electronic monitoring would enhance any learning opportunities and may in fact prove to be counterproductive, certainly for those whose behaviour may be less of a risk to the public."

3.6 The remainder of responses were more positive at a conceptual level and the comments received to Question 1 predominantly fell into three core categories:

  • The need for electronic monitoring to be part of a rehabilitative, person-centred 'package' of support;
  • The need for interaction and integration between statutory services and the service provider;
  • The need for effective information sharing.

3.7 A series of additional comments were also received which do not fall within the three core areas.

Electronic monitoring as a package of support

3.8 One of the key predetermining comments was an acknowledgement that electronic monitoring should not exist as a stand-alone punishment but rather as part of a rehabilitative package of support. Eleven separate respondents - comprising four local authorities, four other independent and professional bodies, two partnerships and one third sector organisation - commented from the perspective that electronic monitoring is a punitive measure rather than rehabilitative. The importance of judicial sentencing in discouraging reoffending means that punitive sentencing alone is insufficient. As one respondent commented:

"There is nothing intrinsic to [electronic monitoring] that tries to affect a person's behaviour in the longer term, beyond the duration of the order."
(other independent and professional body)

3.9 It was this perspective that formed the basis of one of the key themes in responses to this question, which was respondents' support for electronic monitoring to be integrated into a holistic, person-centred package of support. Another eleven responses specifically stipulated their support for this approach, made up of three CJAs, two local authorities, two partnerships, two other public sector bodies and two other independent and professional services bodies. One local authority commented that their support for the principle was strong and that to ensure successful implementation there is a need for a best practice framework.

3.10 Two local authorities and a partnership outlined that these outcomes should be based on a principle of proportionality, whereby the use of electronic monitoring should be proportionate to the assessed risks. As one local authority stated:

"The principle of proportionality requires to be enshrined within the assessment and a more dynamic and flexible approach to periods and types of restriction taken with reference to pattern, nature, seriousness and likelihood of further offending."

3.11 Thinking about the establishment of a framework for development, five respondents - three community justice authorities (CJAs), a partnership and a third sector organisation - suggest that the Reducing Reoffending Change Fund and Mentoring Public Social Partnerships (PSPs) provide an ideal framework for a holistic person-centred rehabilitative package to complete the requisite monitoring, management and support.

The need for integration of services

3.12 The establishment of a support framework in the vein of the PSPs mentioned above was acknowledged to require a degree of integration between various organisations and institutions and formed the basis for one of the key response themes to Question 1. A large number of respondents commented on the need for specific services to integrate and interact more effectively; whilst Criminal Justice Social Work (CJSW) was frequently mentioned, one respondent commented on the need for CJSW to form the central component of a review.

3.13 The most commonly noted interactions required were between CJSW and the electronic monitoring service provider - currently G4S. One local authority commented on the fact that electronic monitoring appears to largely exist separately from Criminal Justice Social Work. They acknowledged that there are contacts between supervising officers and G4S staff and that G4S are invited to planning meetings for high risk offenders; however, the perception was that there is little evident discussion in terms of how each can support one another. Their suggestion was that the service provider could nominate an individual staff member as a contact person for each local authority area, and perhaps have regular times when the staff member is in the area to come to CJSW offices and share relevant information on service users.

3.14 Another local authority commented on the fact that there is no apparent interaction from local authorities with offenders who are on Restriction of Liberty Orders (RLOs), highlighting the need for additional support. They also suggested that even when the monitoring is imposed as a sanction for breaching a Community Payback Order (CPO), the interaction between the local authority supervising the offender and the service provider is limited.

3.15 With respect to CPOs, a small number of respondents commented on the changes between the pre-existing probation orders to CPOs[1], which do not include electronic monitoring as a mandatory requirement. A private sector respondent also argued that this lack of CPO legislation with an electronic monitoring component is a barrier to full partnership working, stating that:

"The current lack of legislation for monitoring to be imposed as a condition of a community payback order clearly reduces the potential for partnership working and to embrace the principle of a more holistic approach towards addressing offenders' risk and needs. It follows that we support the principle of statutory or voluntary service providers providing resources to increase the level of support to some persons during their curfew and to address wider criminogenic and social needs."

3.16 Thinking about the integration of services, one local authority commented that electronic monitoring needs to be incorporated within the overall Case Management Plan. They argued that it also requires joined up case management, following the model of unpaid work and supervision as part of a CPO. Their view was that this could involve active participation in the case management process by monitoring services, including attendance at reviews, as opposed to minimal contact primarily centred on breach processes, which appeared to be the case currently.

3.17 Nine respondents specified the need to include the third sector in the integration of support services available to offenders. Furthermore, some felt that there would be a need to clarify specific roles. A local authority and third sector organisation highlighted the importance of the third sector in the light of evidence that suggests that depression, other mental health issues and feelings of isolation are common for offenders.

3.18 On the other hand, two third sector respondents and a local authority commented that electronic monitoring can cause pressures on households. Examples were given whereby children could be at risk in the event of offending parents being reintegrated to the household. As one local authority stated:

"…chaotic offenders are the most likely to have significant issues with (stable) accommodation, family relationships and compliance (attending appointments). Thus some form additional support via third sector mentoring arrangements would be critical to making this a success."

3.19 A third sector organisation added that research confirms that effective solutions for stimulating positive change in offenders are commonly focused around interventions that:

  • Are cognitive-behavioural in nature;
  • Help increase an individual's understanding of the impact of their offending on others;
  • Help build social and personal capital;
  • Promote desistance.

3.20 A partnership and two third sector organisations highlighted a potential strength in integrating support services and electronic monitoring as part of home detention curfews (HDC), again stressing the need for additional support for families.

3.21 One partnership added that they believe improved integration to throughcare and community based disposals would enhance the impact in reducing re-offending.

The need for effective information sharing

3.22 The third key theme emerging from responses to Question 1 was the need to ensure effective information sharing between the integrated organisations. Most significantly, as highlighted by twelve responses, was the need for effective information sharing between CJSW and the service provider (G4S).

3.23 A local authority commented that regular and reliable information sharing between criminal justice services, service provider and the courts was required. This would include for example, daily compliance reports from the service provider, confirmation of warnings or breach from CJSW and consideration of general progress by Sheriffs. The perception was that the inclusion of detailed research and guidance on partnership working in a best practice framework, as aforementioned at 3.9, may also help to overcome any legal and ethical issues concerning its usage.

3.24 Another local authority commented that they felt that the current system does not lend itself to integrated working between agencies providing treatment and those providing supervision. They felt that the provision of update reports from those responsible for monitoring the offender to parties responsible for providing treatment as well as supervision, might go some way to improving integration.

3.25 Three respondents - two partnerships and a local authority - commented on the need for this information sharing to extend to third sector organisations providing support. One response mentioned that there may be a requirement to seek the offender's consent in sharing this information.

Additional Comments

3.26 A number of additional comments were received relating to Question 1 of the consultation, which do not fall within the three key themes highlighted above. Four respondents commented on the need in relevant cases to align with continuous alcohol monitoring through use of, for example, transdermal alcohol testing. One private sector respondent commented on the strength of their Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS) in the USA and the development of Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring (SCRAM) to hold offenders accountable to sobriety requirements. They stated that research shows that utilising evidence‐based treatment plans that include random drug and continuous alcohol monitoring can have positive impacts on recidivism rates.

3.27 Two respondents commented on support for electronic monitoring to certain people groups - young people and women - as an alternative to remand (ATR). In the case of the former, an academic institution argued that this should only be used when young people represent a risk to themselves and as part of ATR only for pre-trial. In the case of the latter, a third sector organisation cited the fact that 70% of women on trial do not go on to serve custodial sentences as justification for this.

3.28 A professional body commented on welcoming electronic tagging in principle but stated a need to consider an offender's right to privacy.

3.29 Finally, a third sector organisation commented that the consultation requires more focus on public protection and that many practises generally need to be improved. The respondent cited adequate risk assessment of the offender; inclusive and meaningful participation of, and consultation with, victims; consideration of the nature of conditions imposed on the offender as part of the electronic monitoring release; management of the offender, and appropriate and timely responses to breaches of conditions and further offending by the service provider, prisons, courts and police.

The current handling of breach of orders and suggestions for improvement or developments in this system

3.30 Question 2 asked: 'Please give your views on how breach of orders is handled under the current system and what, if any, suggestions you have for improvement or development of the current system of breach? '

3.31 Thirty-seven respondents provided comments. Five responses stated their broad support for the process currently in place. One respondent, a third sector organisation, commented on their support for the simplicity of the current system whereby RLOs are dealt with by the courts and HDCs are dealt with by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS). A number of respondents commented on the clarity and speed of HDC reporting specifically. One local authority noted that although the process generally is good and speedy from CJSW, they felt that there was a degree of inefficiency from the courts.

Speed of processing

3.32 In terms of improving or developing the current system of breach, a wide variety of comments was received. Whilst there was some praise for speed as mentioned above, six responses specifically mentioned requirements for improvement.

3.33 Some commented that it was the lag between breach and a court appearance where court orders apply. A local authority commented on frustration with this time delay, adding that the lag may also leave the community and victims vulnerable. Their suggestion was that it might be pertinent to alter the system to include breach timelines targets to reflect that more serious breaches, such as entering an exclusion zone, require action within a specified period. They felt that lesser breaches such as accumulation of time violations may have a longer time period so that the impact on courts is lessened.

3.34 Four responses - one from a partnership and three from CJAs - specifically argued in favour of a more streamlined approach to court imposed orders, whilst a public sector organisation argued the need for a more streamlined Parole Board decision-making process. Another public sector organisation noted that there was a need to ensure that breaches of orders should be reported immediately to the Parole Board or the courts.

3.35 Whilst there was a range of other responses received in terms of improvements to the service, these fell under three main areas relating to the perceived complexity of the current system, the need for clearer consequences and better communication.

Complexity of the three level approach

3.36 One of the most significant themes emerging was the perception of the current system as one that is complex. Thirteen individual responses commented on this issue in some way. For some, the three level approach, although this was understood not to be the case, is seen as implicit of one which indicates seriousness and it was felt this will not be easily understood by the public and / or offenders.

3.37 Whilst there was an understanding from many of the need to take into account different circumstances, for those who felt the system was complex and / or unclear, there was a suggested need to clarify the relationship between breach 'levels' and the outcomes of breach. As one partnership wrote:

"The current arrangements, with three categories of non-compliance which are not reflected in seriousness of circumstances surrounding alleged breach are not helpful in ensuring clear understanding and transparency. It may therefore be helpful to consider one list of matters that could constitute breach, within existing arrangements for courts to consider their response to breach reports."

3.38 It is important to note that some responses recognised the need for flexibility in breach protocols, but that this was commonly referred to in more simple terms. For example one public sector organisation made reference to voluntary breach, which they felt should be treated more strongly, and involuntary, such as public transport failures or issues outside of the control of the individual, which should be treated more leniently. Involuntary breaches were mentioned by a third sector respondent as particularly likely amongst young people, due to less life experience.

Consequences of breach

3.39 As alluded to in the earlier quotation, there was a suggestion from some respondents of the need to outline more clearly the consequences of breach. A local authority and a partnership both suggested the production of a tariff system, which clearly outlines the possible types - or levels - of breach and what the consequences of each would be. Another local authority suggested that such guidelines should be published for wider availability and to aid consistency.

3.40 For some a consistent approach to punitive action would reduce the aforementioned complexity of the system and should act as a deterrent to breach. Three respondents argued that at the time of initial sentencing it should be made clear to offenders what the consequences of breach will be.

3.41 In the light of the complexity of the system and the need for efficiency in the process, a partnership suggested that there was a need for a clear and consistent process for prioritising breaches, most likely on the basis of their severity.

Communication

3.42 Communication processes were highlighted as an area for potential improvement and aligned with the issues of inter-agency integration and information sharing as outlined in responses to Question 1. A number of respondents highlighted again the importance of effective and efficient information share between social workers and the service provider (G4S); in certain circumstances this should be shared with third sector organisations involved in the rehabilitation process, e.g. for young people.

3.43 Respondents suggested that effective information share and communication between agencies would allow social workers and others to assess the circumstances of breach (as mentioned) efficiently and clearly. Some responses mentioned the need for immediacy in reporting of a breach and a local authority specified the need for the CJSW to be informed immediately when an order is breached where a CPO is running concurrently with a RLO.

3.44 A small number of responses commented on the challenge that there is no communication with CJSW in the case of HDCs. They felt that for those not under statutory supervision to CJSW, liaison should exist between SPS, G4S and CJSW. Their view was that post custodial voluntary support will likely be in place and improved contact between agencies may assist in improving compliance.

The role of social workers

3.45 A number of responses commented on the need to provide clarity on the specific roles of each agency in the case of different levels of breach. As such, there was a view that social workers could and should play an increased role of influence in the process of dealing with breach. A partnership specifically outlined how social workers' influence could be developed, stating improvements in terms of:

  • Listening and taking greater account of social work opinion and assessment regarding an individual's suitability;
  • Taking greater account of social work recommendations for action;
  • Improved tie up between SPS and social work in relation to decision-making.

3.46 In relevant circumstances, the role of third sector organisations was also seen as a potential area of development.

Risk Assessments

3.47 A small number of respondents also highlighted the importance of effective risk assessments in the development of breach - this was most notably relative to avoiding breach in the first place but also referenced ensuring against further breach. For some there was a need for effective information sharing on an offender's previous performance with electronic monitoring to assess the risk of breach. Again this was seen as particularly important in the case of HDC where there is no liaison with CJSW.

3.48 Others argued that in the case of RLO, there was a need for a much better initial assessment of risk to avoid breach. A further suggestion was that risk assessments of future breach should allow for higher risk individuals to be fast tracked.

Barriers to greater use of electronic monitoring under the current system

3.49 Question 3 asked: 'Do you know of any barriers to greater use of electronic monitoring under the current system? What could be done to address those?'

3.50 A total of 37 consultation responses directly addressed this question. The main themes emerging from the responses were:

  • Lack of understanding and awareness generally;
  • Public perceptions of electronic monitoring as a 'soft' punishment;
  • The need for evidence on the effectiveness of electronic monitoring in terms of reducing reoffending and some form of surrounding PR work;
  • Concerns about the appropriateness of offenders' living arrangements when under electronic monitoring;
  • Privacy and human rights.

Lack of awareness and understanding

3.51 A number of responses to the question suggested that there was a general lack of understanding and / or awareness of electronic monitoring as an effective punitive measure. This applied to both professionals including Sheriffs and the general public. Comments relating to the need to increase awareness and understanding are discussed further in this chapter.

3.52 Aligned with the previous questions, seven respondents felt that greater communication and integration between services, especially the CJSW and service provider (G4S) would assist in sharing information, improving outcomes and raising awareness and understanding. One local authority commented on the need for local authorities generally to play a significant role in this information exchange and joined up working approach. Two partnerships commented on the need to administer a pilot within individual community justice authority areas (CJAs). As one response stated:

"Considering the first question in the consultation focused on EM and integration of services to meet the needs of the offender, it may be logical to pilot some work involving EM and integration within certain CJA areas".
(partnership)

3.53 A local authority stated that any extension of electronic monitoring must be targeted appropriately without "net widening", up- tariffing or degradation of risk management of offenders". This will require further training for sentencers, Parole Boards, CJSW and other criminal justice professionals. Used appropriately and proportionally, they felt it has the capacity to reduce the prison population, lessen the impact on offenders and increase the potential for rehabilitation.

3.54 One public sector organisation suggested that the development of the service would require the establishment of a local governance group involving the police, social workers, Scottish Court Service, Crown Office and SPS.

Public perceptions on electronic monitoring

3.55 Another key potential barrier to use of electronic monitoring that was highlighted in seven consultation responses, was the public perception of it as a 'soft' or lenient measure on offenders. These respondents generally felt that there was a need for publicly published evidence and information on what the merits of electronic monitoring are, particularly in the context of community safety and repeat offending.

The need for evidence

3.56 This points above lead to the most commonly raised issue in this question of the consultation. Ten responses to the consultation highlighted a lack of published evidence as a likely barrier to more widespread use of electronic monitoring. This argument was represented by three local authorities, two public sector bodies, two other independent and professional bodies, one CJA, a partnership and a third sector organisation. There was a concern that not enough research has been conducted or published to demonstrate how effective electronic monitoring is in reducing criminality generally and especially reoffending. As one local authority wrote:

"We believe the case still has to be made to demonstrate what additionality EM can bring to achieving the goals of reparation, rehabilitation and integration within the context of community social work Court disposals".

3.57 For three other respondents - two partnerships and a third sector organisation - there was a suggestion that at present there is no evidence of the long term effectiveness of electronic monitoring. One commented on the prevalence of concerns amongst CJSW regarding the restrictive and punitive aspects of electronic monitoring, coupled with their doubts over its effectiveness in the long term. Another independent and professional body stated that there is an ongoing need for promotion of the use of electronic monitoring specifically with authors of CJSW reports.

3.58 A third sector organisation argued that the major flaw in electronic monitoring is that there is no evidence that it addresses the criminogenic needs of the offender.

3.59 Aligned with this lack of evidence, some argued that the knock-on effects are that there is a general lack of judicial confidence in certain authorities, whilst others added that use of electronic monitoring is at the discretion of Sheriffs who may or may not support their use and there is little consistency across CJAs. Whilst some argued the case for a pilot, others argued that if there is a geographical bias, there should be a degree of information share to allow one jurisdiction to learn from another.

Concerns over living conditions

3.60 Seven consultation responses highlighted the importance of considering the offender's living conditions in the case of electronic monitoring. In these instances there were concerns raised about the suitability of certain cases in reintegrating with their families or in becoming isolated, again dependent on the individual themselves.

3.61 A local authority suggested that the resilience of families to cope with offenders who might be placed on electronic monitoring and the "chaotic nature of some offenders' lives" can all act as barriers to its success.

3.62 Two possible solutions were suggested to counteract the issue. A local authority suggested that the third sector could play a role in the rehabilitation and reintegration process, particularly organisations funded through the Reducing Reoffending Change Fund. A third sector organisation argued that a system that was centred on an individual's whereabouts, rather than proximity to a radio transmitter would be more appropriate - possibly strengthening the argument for GPS, which was supported as a solution for one CJA.

Privacy and Human Rights

3.63 A small number of respondents, two other independent and professional bodies and another public sector organisation commented on a likely aversion from some groups to electronic monitoring on the basis of human rights and privacy. The public sector organisation stated that Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1988 is a barrier to greater use of electronic monitoring, however this must be balanced with the level of offending, threat, risk and harm posed.

Electronic monitoring and CPOs

3.64 A small number of respondents drew attention to the fact that electronic monitoring cannot be a condition of CPOs at the start of the order and this was having an effect on use of RLOs more generally. An academic institution commented that this was an anomaly in relation to electronic monitoring particularly as it can be imposed as a sanction for a breach of a CPO. They felt that given the use through the Children's Hearing System (CHS) of Movement Restriction Conditions (MRCs), combined with intensive support packages, the availability of electronic monitoring as an additional condition of a CPO could potentially fulfil a similar purpose. The perceived advantage of such a disposal would be to guarantee that electronic monitoring is delivered in tandem with social work support given that a CPO can only be issued to a young person under the age of eighteen when accompanied by an Offender Supervision Requirement condition.

Additional Comments

3.65 A small number of additional potential barriers were mentioned including:

  • Delays in getting orders through the court / speed of processing generally;
  • Resource limitations and social worker time;
  • Frustration with inflexibility to the process;
  • Uncertainty with how best to use electronic monitoring;
  • Saturation of technology in modern life.

Improvements and areas for development

3.66 Question 4 asked: 'Considering all aspects of how electronic monitoring currently operates, what improvements and areas for development could you suggest for the operation of the current electronic monitoring service in Scotland?'

3.67 Thirty-six responses directly addressed this question. There was a degree of support for the concept of developing the scope of electronic monitoring and many of the suggested areas for development and improvement aligned with the preceding three questions. Three responding CJAs explicitly stated that there was a need and desire to see use of electronic monitoring widen in Scotland.

3.68 As a slightly cautionary note, a local authority stated that if electronic monitoring is to be developed further, consideration should be given to increasingly individualised and tailored approaches to its use. Their argument was that this would allow a greater degree of flexibility to monitor, restrict or contain individuals without the need for expensive and arguably damaging periods of incarceration. GPS exclusion zones and amended curfew times were mentioned as potential avenues for consideration - each of which is dealt with later in this section.

Electronic monitoring with CPOs

3.69 As mentioned in the responses to Question 3, there was a degree of confusion from a number of responses in terms of why electronic monitoring could not be added as a stipulation to CPOs. This was of particular relevance when considering high risk offenders. Indeed, this issue was raised again at Question 4 by six individual respondents - three local authorities, a private sector organisation, a partnership and an independent and professional body. There was concern with respect to the fact that it is not currently possible under the Criminal Justice and Licensing Act 2010 to impose a RLO condition as part of a CPO (although it was recognised that such an order can be imposed following breach of a CPO and an RLO can be imposed alongside a CPO).

3.70 One response drew reference to a report from Strathclyde University on the basis of interviews with Sheriffs evaluating CPOs. The results from the research suggested that Sheriffs find it helpful to use electronic monitoring to restrict offenders (particularly young males) to their homes during the evenings, as a means of keeping them away from situations where their offending typically occurs. The restriction can then be varied in progress reviews if the offender is making progress and complying with the order. As such, respondents argued that there might be some advantage to enabling electronic monitoring to be used as part of a conduct requirement of a CPO.

3.71 As one local authority stated: "It is not clear why electronic monitoring is not available as a requirement of a Community Payback Order, where a supervision requirement could be imposed alongside. It might be helpful to develop best practice guidance which illustrates where electronic monitoring is more likely to be effective".

Information exchange and agency integration

3.72 As in the previous questions, a number of respondents commented on the need for better inter-agency working and information sharing. In general, this referred to the information exchange and joined up working between service provider (G4S) and local authorities / criminal justice staff. A partnership respondent suggested that more effective communication between social work and the service provider might support the CJSW role which could potentially include social work being able to vary orders without having to go through the court system, which is currently very time and work intensive.

3.73 One respondent, an academic institution commented that there is a need to ensure that opportunities for relationship building between private sector technology providers and social workers are maximised to ensure the best possible service to young people and to increase the prospect of their successful completion of orders imposed.

3.74 A local authority suggested that although RLOs are managed by the service provider, the service provider could keep the local CJSW service fully informed on all relevant individuals to permit full and accurate record keeping within social work information systems.

3.75 Two responses, both from other independent and professional bodies, argued that there was a case to be made for the removal of private enterprise from the process and that the management of electronic monitoring should be brought in house to aid information sharing and long-term economic savings.

3.76 Two responses specifically commented on the need for greater education of Sheriffs on the benefits and uses of electronic monitoring and suggested that the service provider could supply up to date information on the subject to them.

Use of GPS

3.77 The use of GPS is discussed in much greater detail later in this report, however there were a significant number of responses which addressed the issue to some extent at Question 4. Eight respondents commented on the need for, or a desire to see use of GPS rather than the traditional radio frequency (RF) transmitters, including three CJAs, two partnerships, two other public sector organisations and a local authority. The reasons given at this stage were as follows.

3.78 The CJAs argued that the use of licence conditions for attendance at interventions as part of HDC, or any court order using electronic monitoring, could be increased and enforced through GPS, thus structuring the offenders day, as they are still serving part of or all of their sentence, albeit in the community.

3.79 The two partnerships and a local authority added that there was a benefit to GPS in the development of exclusion zones, suggesting that GPS has the potential to identify where someone at risk may be moving towards the locus of an offender and could allow for quicker and more effective intervention.

3.80 A public sector organisation added that although there was a need to see improvements to GPS signalling, its use in electronic monitoring provides an opportunity to inform crime investigations, by enabling real time information of the offenders' location; this could potentially reduce the impact on police time and resources.

Types of Offender

3.81 A small number of responses commented on the types of offender who could be considered for electronic monitoring. One local authority commented on the need to use it more frequently with offenders serving shorter custodial sentences and more with young offenders.

3.82 Two local authorities and a partnership argued that the use of electronic monitoring could in fact be more targeted and specifically to high risk offenders. One of the local authorities suggested that electronic monitoring should be reserved for serious, violent offenders and sex offenders where the level of the risk assessment and behaviour merits restriction on movement over and above other sanctions / interventions.

3.83 A local authority suggested that domestic abuse cases could be given priority with electronic monitoring arguing that in these instances, consideration should always be given for a tag / RLO to be imposed as a condition of supervision, except where the perpetrator and victim continue to reside together.

Curfew Hours

3.84 Three responses highlighted potential changes to curfew hours in electronic monitoring cases.

3.85 One local authority felt that under a GPS based system, time zones could apply for specific offender types, for example school run times for sex offenders.

3.86 An independent and professional body called for flexibility in curfew hours to ensure the best practice in family reintegration.

3.87 Another local authority argued that the current curfew restrictions applied to electronic monitoring are sufficient but any variation in the use of the hours may be better linked to the role of statutory authorities, rather than the courts.

Incentivising compliance

3.88 Three respondents argued the case for reducing the restrictions imposed on offenders in the case of continued compliance. Two commented on the fact that courts can exercise their right to review any order with electronic monitoring and welcomed this, but questioned how frequently this was done.

3.89 One respondent, a local authority suggested that incentivisation could not be seen as an option for electronic monitoring within HDC licence as the incentive has already been achieved with the early release.

Family support and package of rehabilitation

3.90 As noted in comments at Question 1 particularly, there were references to electronic monitoring being seen as a package of rehabilitation and not a stand-alone measure. Specifically there was a call for young person and family support to be made available when relevant.

3.91 A local authority suggested that the importance of family support in an offender's rehabilitation cannot be underestimated. Their view was that electronic monitoring can be a barrier to family support if the offender does not stay in the family home due to the curfew element. Further, they said that families may feel under additional pressure to 'police' the offender's compliance. As such there is a perceived need for some requirement of flexibility to allow time for positive interaction between family members and the offender.

3.92 Three CJAs argued that there should be a Family Impact Assessment carried out when a HDC is granted as this is more focussed and specific than a standard community assessment report.


Contact

Email: Susan Bulloch