Thursday, 13 July 2017

More on Tagging Omnishambles

I rather liked this contribution for some context to the current situation:- 

Timeline of Shame


"Like greater use of state-of -the-art GPS technology that we’re going to be
trialling and rolling out, so that we really would know whether a paedophile
was, for example, hanging around school gates." Grayling in The Sun.

Satellite tracking will also be brought in and a £5,000 cap on fines set by magistrates will be removed to "make community sentences much more effective", according to Grayling. He will say: "We will use the latest GPS technology to track offenders' movements, and are giving the courts increased powers to set fines that hit offenders in their pockets and are lifting the cap on compensation orders to provide proper compensation to victims."


FURIOUS Police and Crime Commissioners have rounded on the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling accusing him of blocking the roll-out of hi-tech tags to stop criminals re-offending.
A group of 27 local crime tsars have accused the minister of putting Britons at risk of falling victim to crime by refusing to allow them to use new GPS tags on criminals in the community... But Whitehall mandarins are currently negotiating a nationwide contract to retain the old-style electronic ‘proximity’ tags meaning the Commissioners cannot bring in the new technology on an area by area basis.


MoJ press release:
"Under the new arrangements the Ministry of Justice will have far greater oversight over costs and charging than previously, with direct access to the supplier’s systems to increase transparency. Capita have been managing the service on an interim basis since April this year. We will begin using the new tags by the end of the year."
Notes to editors:
1. The 6-year contract with Capita has a net present cost of £228.8 million. The other contracts are all 3 years in length. The contract with Airbus Defence and Space has a net present cost of £10.4 million, Steatite’s contract has a net present cost of £23.2 million and the contract with Telefonica has a net present cost of £3.2 million. All sums are exclusive of VAT, which is payable.


The introduction of the next generation of GPS tracking of offenders, including convicted paedophiles, has been delayed for at least another 12 months, the Ministry of Justice has announced. The prisons minister, Andrew Selous, said there had been significant problems with the project which meant it was impossible to meet the deadline for the £265m six-year contract to begin. The previous justice secretary, Chris Grayling, promised parliament that the first satellite tracking tags, which allow for dangerous and repeat offenders to be monitored around the clock, would come into use by the end of last year.


A problem-plagued project to develop satellite tags for offenders has been abandoned after two and a half years of technology glitches and delays, costing the taxpayer up to £23 million. Ministers wanted to develop their own “bespoke” tags to monitor offenders on release or bail via GPS. But a string of delays and problems has forced the Ministry of Justice to abandon the scheme. Previous attempts have been beset with technology problems including losing the signal when the offender is next to a tall building or even under a tree. 

Around £21 million of the £23 million research project has already been spent and officials refused to say whether the department will be liable for the rest as well. Instead, they will now simply look to buy the technology that is already on the market. The move marks the latest in a string of U-turns since Michael Gove replaced Chris Grayling as Justice Secretary, including scrapping the controversial criminal courts charge, ditching plans for "secure colleges" and terminating a controversial £5.9 million bid to run prison training services in Saudi Arabia.


But the saga goes back even further and here we have Rob Allen's take on things:-

Satellite Tracking of Offenders - Pie in the Sky?

The National Audit Office Report on recent efforts to expand electronic tagging paints a sorry picture of failed procurements, contract disputes and wasted public money including £60m of sunk costs. The report finds the new generation electronic monitoring system (EM) – which both enforces curfews by verifying whether an offender or suspect is at home and a location tracking function -will be five years late if it gets going by next year.

Whether this is realistic or not “will largely depend on the plans of G4S, the new preferred bidder for the tags”. It’s hard to understand how the controversial private security company is still involved in this field at all. For one thing, they are under investigation for fraud following the 2014 overbilling scandal - one of the factors identified by the NAO as contributing to the delays in the new system. Should criminal wrongdoing be proved, could they really continue with the contract? And while G4S’s future role seems to be limited to providing the tags themselves, only last year faults were found with these. As a result enforcement action may have been taken against offenders or suspects in response to false tamper reports.

What the NAO report doesn’t do is make a broader and longer term assessment of the contribution that EM has and could make to criminal justice. If they had, they’d find the delay in getting location tracking off the ground is closer to fifteen years than five. In 2004, with the prison population at 74,000, then Home Secretary David Blunkett promised that satellite tracking technology could provide the basis for a 'prison without bars', potentially cutting prison overcrowding, and expensive accommodation. Plans were announced for the 5,000 most prolific offenders in England and Wales to be tagged and tracked using the global positioning system (GPS). Pilot schemes were duly arranged and evaluated with magistrates and District Judges finding tracking “a helpful sentencing option”.

Since then, while the prison population has increased by 11,000, the NAO found that the average number of subjects having their movements tracked using GPS in 2016-17 was …20. It’s true that more than 10,000 people are subject to curfews of one sort or another and some - particularly those on Home Detention Curfew - would otherwise be in prison.

But for whatever reason - political, technological, administrative - the promise of tracking as a way of emptying prisons has simply not been delivered. When I put this point to a provider of EM recently, I was told something to the effect that only 2% of households had fridges in 1950. Success, it seems is just around the corner.

An excellent recent study of EM concluded that it has universal appeal, with its chief purpose being “its perceived ability to bring about cost savings by operating as an alternative to prison”. But as the NAO finds “there is still limited evidence" about its effectiveness. While their report documents a shocking history of failure to organise EM properly, it avoids the bigger question about the role it is expected to play in the criminal justice system in England and Wales.

Rob Allen


  1. Personally I would expect a process of asset freezing for a company under investigation by the SFO for potentially defrauding a countries government, and not rewarded with another lucrative contract by the same government.
    When is the SFO investigation expected to conclude? And what influence might the MoJ have on that investigation? What happens to the new contract if the SF Office does actually uncover fraud?
    This outsourcing malarkey is not only complicated, confusing and crazy, but there's also quite a sinister and distasteful feeling about it.


    1. 'Malarkey' is a great word!
      I'm drawn to post this piece from the Independent which questions if all the current outsourcing deals done by business and the UK government are not all a load of 'malarkey'.

  2. BBC News in 2004

    A 'prison without bars'

    Satellite tracking technology could provide the basis for a 'prison without bars', potentially cutting prison overcrowding, and expensive accommodation.
    Under plans announced on Monday, the 5,000 most prolific offenders in England and Wales are to be tagged and tracked using the global positioning system (GPS). The satellite technology means criminals could be tracked down to the nearest 100 yards.

    According to a spokesperson at Securicor Justice Services, a supplier of criminal tracking devices, this is a much "higher lever" of tagging than is currently used. Electronic tagging, which the government currently relies on, is only able to set off an alarm when the offender breaches a curfew. But with GPS, the person can be tracked within the community, 24 hours a day.

    "For the persistent offenders, you could say 'you can't go near a certain council estate'. Then if they breach that and go to the council estate, an alarm goes off at a central control room immediately, and the police are notified," a Securicor spokesperson told BBC News Online.

    Operators at the control room, which would be run by the private company providing the device, would be able to track the person down to the nearest 100 yards, giving an accurate reading of the criminal's location.

    Home Secretary David Blunkett told the BBC Radio Four's Today programme that a "prison without bars" could be created, where "first-time low-level non-violent offenders would actually be tracked rather than sent to short-term prison sentences".

    The scheme is likely to be similar to one already underway in Florida, US, where 3,000 criminals are monitored by GPS. Each criminal carries an electronic anklet, which is linked to the GPS system. Their movements are traced to make sure they do not enter restricted areas such as schools.

    The scheme is run by Pro Tech, one of the leaders in satellite tracking technology. Pro Tech boast that tracking costs only a fraction of what it does to keep someone in prison.

    A Home Office spokesperson told BBC News Online a pilot of the devices will be trialled in three areas late this summer.

    However the exact device which will be used on criminals has not yet been finalised.

  3. Any claim that GPS monitors 24 hours a day is simply not true. What we know from its use in the States is that it generates many false alarms, when the signal is not received inside buildings or the battery runs flat. So the operator has to guess if its a true alarm or just a much more frequent false one. Interestingly several States have moved from GPS to GPS enabled Smart Phone monitoring. If this is superior technology or better marketing by a company called Outreach Smartphone Monitoring I don't know, but it should be a much cheaper technology.