Tagging sentences to be expanded

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and Chief Constable Phil Gormley.Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and Chief Constable Phil Gormley.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson and Chief Constable Phil Gormley.
The Scottish Government is to continue to expand the use of electronic tags to help reduce reoffending levels and keep communities safe, Justice Secretary Michael Matheson announced today (Tuesday).

New projects will use electronic monitoring – including GPS tracking in addition to the current radio frequency technology used for home detention – to monitor people as part of their sentence building on the advice of a panel of experts and international research published today.

This expansion of electronic tagging would be used in addition to community payback orders and other measures to tackle a person’s offending behaviour while providing the added security of restricting their movements.

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The government will also look at how electronic monitoring could be used ahead of sentencing in cases where the crime would be unlikely to result in a custodial punishment.

Mr Matheson said: “The overwhelming message from the experts is that Scotland could significantly reduce reoffending by better use of electronic tagging and emerging monitoring technology. I welcome all of the recommendations the panel has made and am determined that we seize this opportunity to reduce crime even further and make our communities safer.

“Effective community sentences have driven Scotland’s reoffending rate down to a 17 year low using smarter, more effective interventions. The potential of combining community sentencing alternatives with tagging will allow us to hold people to greater account during their sentence and focus on rehabilitating them.

“There will always be crimes where a prison sentence is the only reasonable response, but international research backs our own experience that short term sentences are not the most effective way to bring down reoffending.

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“This government is committed to an ambitious and progressive approach to reducing offending and we will ensure that we are using electronic tagging more effectively and in the best way possible to keep people safe.”

Professor Mike Nellis, Emeritus Professor of Criminal and Community Justice at the University of Strathclyde and member of the working group said:

“International evidence does suggest that various forms of electronic monitoring can add value to the best of what supervisors already do. The Justice Secretary’s encouragement of a more integrated use of it is welcome. Within this helpful new framework, Scotland’s criminal justice practitioners, including sentencers, need to work out how to use it wisely and well.”

Stirling University criminologist and electronic monitoring researcher Dr Hannah Graham carried out the report studies.

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She said: “Tagging and curfews alone don’t address the underlying reasons why people commit crime, so the working group’s recommendations are welcome for how they emphasise integration with rehabilitative supports to help leave crime behind.

“There is a disproportionately high rate of people on remand in prison in Scotland. The recommendation to introduce electronic monitoring as an alternative to remand opens up extra opportunities to address this issue by closely monitoring and supporting more people in the community pre-trial, without losing sight of the need to ensure public safety.

“This announcement and the working group’s recommendations show Scotland taking a more European approach to electronic monitoring, learning from the Dutch goal-oriented approach and leading Scandinavian examples. There is good evidence underpinning these countries’ approaches, and I would argue this is a better and bolder direction for Scotland to pursue.”