Troubled eight-year project reaches fruition as technology is to be deployed nationwide in the coming months
The government is to roll out GPS tagging technology that allows round-the-clock monitoring of offenders and alerts officials if the wearer breaches exclusion areas.
The deployment brings to an end an eight-year saga, with work on the £130m programme having begun in 2011. Since then, it has been beset by numerous delays and obstacles, and the implementation of the technology comes more than five years later than the originally scheduled data of November 2013.
The technology will allow staff at a specialist monitoring unit in Manchester to track offenders’ location at all times. The tags can be used to ensure someone does not enter a designated exclusion zone, or remains at least a certain distance from a particular location – such as a victim’s home. The technology can also be used to track attendance at work or rehabilitation programmes, as well as monitoring movements “to support discussions with probation about an offender’s lifestyle and behaviours”.
If an offender breaches their conditions of bail or release, they can be recalled to court or prison.
Location-monitoring tags are currently in use across three regions of the National Probation Service: the north west; the Midlands; and the north east. The technology will be made available across England and Wales in the next few months.
Police forces “can choose to roll out the service as soon as it is available in their region”, the government said.
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It added: “Some forces are keen to proceed with GPS tagging and we will continue to work closely with those who want further information before rolling this service out.”
One force that will shortly be conducting a pilot is London’s Metropolitan Police, which will be monitoring the movements of knife crime offenders once they are released from prison.
“Offenders will have their movements checked against locations of reported crimes, in an effort to tackle violence in the capital,” according to the government.
Elsewhere, the tags can be imposed for court-imposed bail, community orders, suspended sentence orders, home detention curfew cases, and Parole Board cases relating to long-term or life prison sentences, as well as cases of imprisonment for public protection.
Justice secretary David Gauke said: “GPS tagging will help to better protect victims and give them the reassurance that perpetrators will not be able to breach an exclusion zone without triggering an immediate alert. I am confident that this important new technology will become a vital tool to increase public protection and strengthen options for tougher community sentences.”