Electronic Monitoring in Scotland Working Group Report

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

Current Uses of Electronic Monitoring in Scotland

Since 2002, EM has been available in Scotland as a Restriction of Liberty Order ( RLO) and since 2006 for those released from prison on Home Detention Curfew ( HDC). EM is also used by:

  • the Parole Board for Scotland as a condition of licence
  • courts as a Restricted Movement Requirement for breach of a Community Payback Order
  • as a Movement Restriction Condition for young people
  • as a condition of a Drug Treatment and Testing Order.

Currently Scotland only utilises radio frequency technology, monitoring approximately 900 people each day. Radio frequency has proven to be an effective technology to monitor when an individual enters or leaves a specific address, either as part of a curfew to a specific address or - much less frequently - where an away from exclusion zone has been set up to protect a victim, be that an individual or, in some cases, a business.

In essence Scotland has predominantly used EM in a limited fashion, with adults, and solely as a punishment. Its two flagship measures - RLO and HDC - are standalone interventions which are intentionally not integrated with other support services.

During 2015, 1806 new RLOs were imposed and 1 restriction 'away from' was made. 86% of these orders were for males and 14% were for females.

For those coming out of prison, 1426 new HDC licences were imposed, 89% of which were for males and 11% of which were for females.

RLO and HDC licences make up the vast majority of electronic monitoring cases in Scotland.

EM is used as a condition of other orders i.e. Restricted Movement Requirements, Parole licence, Drug Treatment and Testing Orders and Movement Restriction conditions as imposed by the Children's Hearing System. In total these orders equate to 53 cases or 3% of the total orders.

With young people, EM is currently used somewhat differently as part of Intensive Support and Monitoring through the Children's Hearing System and Movement Restriction Conditions ( MRCs). These seek to use EM to reduce the number of young people under 18 within the prison and secure care populations, offering an intensive package of support in addition to the restriction through the "tag" element.

Within the children's hearing system MRCs are used in three ways;

  • where young people place themselves at risk/ are at risk through absconding, self-harming behaviours ( e.g. substance misuse) or may experience risk to self through other means (Children's Hearing (Scotland) Act 2011 - Secure Criteria)
  • as a direct alternative to placement in secure care or custody
  • as part of reintegration into the community and "step down" from secure care.

Where a children's hearing wishes to make a young person subject to an MRC, they must be satisfied that the young person meets the criteria for secure care and that all other community alternatives have been exhausted. An assessment of the young person's suitability for an MRC should include the views of the young person, their parents or carers.

In the original 2002 legislation, it was possible to have EM as a requirement in a probation order. Although this was eventually well used, EM was not set as a requirement of a Community Payback Order ( CPO), when this replaced probation orders; - instead EM is used only as a response to breach of a CPO. It is however currently possible to impose a CPO and an RLO concurrently, providing for a robust community sentence where the monitored person would experience both monitoring and criminal justice social work support simultaneously, for all or part of their sentence.

Similarly, in the context of MAPPA, an individual on non-parole licence may be subject to monitoring and additional supervision and support from police and criminal justice social work. Nonetheless, while there is some experience of combining EM with other measures in Scotland it has not been considered as something to formally integrate with other forms of support as a means of promoting desistance and rehabilitation.

In this respect, Scotland is something of an outlier in Europe where the vast majority of EM schemes are integral aspects of Probation Services. In Europe, except as a pre-trial measure, EM is rarely used as a stand-alone intervention. There are two advantages of this. Firstly, international (predominantly US) research strongly suggests that reduced reoffending occurs during the period of monitoring itself (while the tag is being worn) but not necessarily beyond it. Secondly, social work can capitalise on the period of reduced reoffending to support the individual on his or her desistance journey after the point at which electronic monitoring ends.

Since 2002, private service providers have delivered an efficient and professional service to the courts and other criminal justice agencies. Take-up of EM by sheriffs has, nonetheless, been very variable geographically, with some individual sheriffs making frequent and indeed creative use of it. The methods of communication between the service provider and criminal justice social work have changed over time. Both criminal justice social work and the current service provider - G4S - have reflected that integration was more successful when EM was discussed at the pre-sentence stage as part of the pre-sentence information form. There are a number of potential reasons for limited integration, including workload pressure, limited resource and scepticism towards the benefits of EM (because of lack of familiarity with it). EM has been seen, therefore, as "someone else's business" - the private sector service provider - rather than something that is professionally owned by criminal justice social work. In that sense, criminal justice social work in Scotland has been in a very different position to that of its counterpart European probation services, where EM is understood as a resource to be used for supervisory purposes and, when integrated with social work support, a constructive alternative to custody.

In 2013, the Scottish Government recognised that EM was not being used as strategically or effectively as it could be. The approach in the past had not been sufficiently goal-oriented, either in respect of individuals or in regard to the national scheme as a whole. In addition, newer monitoring technologies, notably GPS satellite tracking and trans-dermal alcohol monitoring (alcohol bracelet) have become available and are being successfully deployed in other European countries.

These considerations informed the public consultation on the future uses of EM undertaken in autumn 2013. Forty-eight bodies and individuals responded, indicating an appetite for change and improvement albeit there was no clear consensus on the nature of that change. In response, the EM in Scotland Working Group was established to explore the issues, and from this work a new vision for EM in Scotland has emerged.

There were in addition a number of other factors shaping the climate in which the Scottish Government was making its decisions about EM not least the publication of an ethical recommendation on the use of EM by the council of Europe and the establishment of a comparative research project on the use of EM in which Scotland was represented and as part of which it commissioned a review of the evidence of EM effectiveness.


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