Criminals to be satellite tracked and electronically tested for alcohol by new tags.

Written by Mark McLaughlin on 4 October 2016 in News

Criminals who avoid prison will have their movements tracked by satellite and their sweat tested for alcohol with new electronic tags announced by the Scottish Government.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson - Source: Scottish Government

Criminals who avoid prison will have their movements tracked by satellite and their sweat tested for alcohol with new electronic tags announced by the Scottish Government.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said the advanced tags will be used alongside community payback orders and other measures to tackle reoffending and restrict criminals' movements.

The measures follow the recommendations of an expert working group on electronic monitoring which called for the “introduction of GPS technology and a demonstration project to look at how transdermal alcohol monitoring technology could be used”.


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Tags could also be used to monitor sex offenders, young offenders, persistent offenders on a voluntary basis, suspects awaiting trial, convicts awaiting sentence and offenders that would currently receive short sentences or fines. 

Prisoners out on work placements, home leave and female community custody units could also be tagged.

The group also recommended more personalised support of offenders and a more consistent approach to offenders who breach their conditions.

Mr Matheson said: “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.”

Professor Mike Nellis, emeritus professor of criminal and community justice at Strathclyde University, said: "International evidence does suggest that various forms of electronic monitoring can add value to the best of what supervisors already do."

Dr Hannah Graham, a criminologist at Stirling University who conducted the electronic monitoring research, 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."

Labour justice spokeswoman Claire Baker said: "For tagging to work both the courts and the general public must have confidence in it as an alternative. Without that we will still see people sent to prison on remand or for short sentences.

“Therefore the Scottish Government must ensure that electronic tagging is fully resourced and monitored, yet with cuts to the budgets of the police, our courts, and local authorities, this will be challenging.”

Greens justice spokesman John Finnie said: "Electronic monitoring can only be effective if the appropriate community support is in place to help people with addictions, behavioural issues and housing problems. Another benefit of tagging is that as the technology improves so presumably do restriction options.”

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