Electronic Monitoring in Scotland Working Group Report

Report and recommendations on electronic monitoring produced by the expert working group.

Victims of Crime

The Working Group recognises that, when considering the future uses of EM and its individual application, the voice of those impacted by crime, most specifically victims, must be heard.

As with people who may be subject to EM, people who have been or are victims are not a homogenous group. They may range from one individual who has been subject to crime on one or many occasions or to a large organisation. The offence type may also differ in frequency and impact. Just as offending affects victims of crime in different ways, eliciting different responses, so too a victim's response and views towards the use of EM can differ. Not all victims of crime will have had the same experience, the same needs and anxieties and. may therefore, have differing needs in terms of protection from further offending.

EM should only be used where it has been risk assessed as appropriate and that each risk assessment must be carried out on a person by person basis. All of these factors must, therefore, be taken into account when considering how EM could be used appropriately to provide protection against further offending to a victim or victims, providing a level of control where none existed before. The Working Group strongly recommends, therefore, that any use of EM in a protective context for victims must be risk assessed and proportionate. It must also be person centred; tailored appropriately to the risks identified and the intended outcome and, give consideration to those affected by offending.

In keeping with other recommendations in this paper, the imposition of any such arrangement must start with the goal rather than the technology in mind. That said, it is the case that new technologies might offer more scope to protect victims.

Expanding the use of EM, in particular the introduction of GPS and the ability to set large exclusion zones, offers new opportunities to use EM technology to provide a level of protection for victims.

Currently using RF technology, EM can help protect a victim by setting an exclusion zone or 'away from' condition around a particular address, such as a business or individual home. This option is used but not in particularly high numbers (on average 3 'away from' conditions are monitored at any given time) or uniformly across Scotland and there may be a need to further understand the reasons behind this.

The inclusion of a person-centred package of support [8] for the monitored person and for the victim which incorporates a protection plan may assist in broadening the appeal of this type of sanction. In addition, the introduction of GPS technology may provide greater flexibility and technical opportunities.

Like RF technology, GPS could help keep a monitored person apart from the victim by creating exclusion zones to place a restriction on the monitored person's movements and prohibit them from entering a property, street or geographic area.

Using GPS, exclusion zones can be any size, from an individual property, to a neighbourhood or whole city. Internationally, such zones have been used to create safe spaces for victims of crime so that they are not likely to encounter the person who offended against them. GPS technology can also create inclusion zones, limiting an individual's movement to remain within a prescribed area and keep them apart from a victim.

It is important to highlight that setting exclusion or inclusion zones would not prevent the monitored person from entering or leaving such a zone; they still have the choice to do so but with an awareness of the consequences of taking such action. The response to this occurring would depend upon the risk status of the individual being monitored and the response plan in place for the victim. This also pre-supposes that the monitored person has an integrated package of support, management or supervision in place.

Examples of potential responses may be:

  • Retrospectively, via the professional providing support to or the management of the monitored person, openly and robustly discussing the individual's entry into an exclusion zone or leaving of an inclusion zone with a view to promoting desistance;
  • Via an alert being raised to those monitoring the zone, the monitored person could be informed when they have entered such a zone or, more likely, a "buffer zone" around the exclusion zone thereby adding an additional layer of protection for the victim. This gives the option of the individual removing themselves from the area or, depending upon the risk posed, local agencies being informed and potentially dispatched if the individual remains in the area.
  • Where this approach is used, practices differ as to whether the nature of the protection plan in place requires that the victim is also alerted. This may depend upon local policies, the risk posed by the monitored person and the needs and requests of the individual victim.
  • In certain circumstances, depending upon the level of risk posed by the monitored person and the protection plan in place for the victim, the police may attend the victim's address or place of work to alert them to the situation. It is likely that this would be used when the victim or victim(s) is/are an individual person rather than an organisation or business.

Separate to, or in addition to, the use of an exclusion or inclusion zone, where there is a recognised individual victim or victims, they could also opt to carry a mobile alarm which will provide an early alert direct to them if the individual is close by.

There may be differing responses from the victim to using this and this would have to be kept under review as part of the protection plan for the victim, particularly to ensure that this approach does not cause any additional stress and anxiety.

In all of the above, the rule of proportionality must be applied and there would need to be a risk assessment carried out on the monitored person's risk of further offending or causing harm. The discussion played out already in this paper the appropriate use of data must also be considered here, particularly if the victim is to also carry a device.

With the above caveats regarding proportionality and victims' views and protection in mind, recognising its greater flexibility, GPS may offer degrees of protection to victims of crime in ways that other community interventions are unable to do. However, the use of RF technology for 'away from' may still be appropriate, particularly when used in standalone applications of EM.

The Working Group has already worked with the Scottish Government to start the work on increasing awareness of the goal-oriented approach to EM and its flexibility. Continuing this work should help to further increase the use of EM and, as part of this, the use of RF 'away from' as appropriate.

It must also be stressed that GPS tracking is not, in itself, a full solution to the risks which may be posed by an individual as no form of EM can offer 100 per cent protection for a victim. However it could, if used appropriately, and with the correct awareness, responses and services in place by community justice partners provide an additional level of control and protection to a victim. The Working Group therefore, recommends, that appropriate and proportionate use of EM is taken forward as part of the new approach to the use of the technology in Scotland but that careful consideration be given to how this may be introduced and how a victim might be involved in the setting of any restrictions.

As noted, although there are options available to us now and, through the introduction of new technologies, potentially in the future, to better ensure the proportionate and effective application of EM, we need to better understand how EM can play a better part in what works to support individuals, prevent and reduce further offending and protect victims.

Internationally, there remains a paucity of research about victims' perspectives and experiences of EM. Existing empirical knowledge is mostly derived from small qualitative studies conducted in Sweden and the United States. While very informative and useful, the above mentioned EU research recommends more independent research is needed to ensure future developments in EM policies and practices are informed by the perspectives and lived experiences of victims amongst others.

As mentioned previously, notwithstanding the taking forward of the above recommendations, the Working Group also recommends further research on victims' perspectives and experiences of EM is undertaken to inform future developments and that best practice continues to be shared with Community Justice Scotland taking a role in this when it is established in 2017.


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