Satellite offender tracking scheme under fire from probation officers

The government’s piloting of a satellite tracking system
for persistent offenders has been slammed by the National
Association of Probation Service (NAPO) as “premature”,
writes Shirley Kumar.

NAPO assistant general secretary Harry Fletcher said no research
had been carried out on current electronic monitoring of its impact
on crime reduction.

He warned the system had to be in conjunction with a wider package
of controls, including curfews, conditions and officer supervision
because of many potential flaws in the system.

Potential flaws include an inability to tell what the offender is
doing and the system will not work in tunnels, tubes, around high
rise buildings and high density areas.

“Will the alarm sound every time a burglar goes near a house?
That would be very difficult to monitor,” he said. “It
is also a myth that sex offenders hang around school

However, a spokesperson for the National Probation Directorate said
that research had been carried out and was available on the
directorate’s website.

The spokesperson added that satellite tracking was used in
conjunction with other controls, not because of flaws in the
system, but because it is only one tool in the supervision of

But Fletcher warned that the government would have to employ an
additional 100 police and probation officers if the scheme was to
go national.

His views were backed by rehabilitation agency Nacro’s chief
executive Paul Cavadino, who said: “To prevent long term
re-offending, it must be combined with rehabilitative measures such
as treatment programmes for paedophiles and drug rehabilitation for
prolific offenders.”

However, Home Office secretary David Blunkett said at the launch of
the scheme, dubbed the “prison without bars” that it
would be “beneficial in preventing and solving crime and
protecting the public.”

Initial pilots will track a total of 120 offenders, 40 each in
Hampshire, West Midlands and Greater Manchester, at the cost of
around £68 a day per offender. Only Manchester will monitor

If successful it will be used to monitor 5,000 prolific offenders,
help keep juvenile offenders out of prison and could even be used
in open prisons.

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