Not Saussure

April 11, 2007

Electronic tags

Filed under: UK — notsaussure @ 9:45 pm

The BBC report that

Four people have been sacked from a security firm after a BBC investigation revealed serious flaws in electronic tagging in the East Midlands. An undercover inquiry by Inside Out East Midlands found Nottingham-based Group Four Securicor (G4S) had left several offenders unmonitored.

This is a particularly sore point in Nottingham, where the jeweller Marian Bates was murdered by Peter Williams, a nineteen-year-old who had removed his tag days before the killing in 2003.

I’ve no direct experience of this but I’m told by someone whom I have no reason to disbelieve that on the rare occasions one of his clients who’s accused, on the basis of a report from the private monitoring company (not in the East Midlands area), of breaking an electronically monitored curfew refuses to admit the breach and instead, as is his right, puts the prosecution to proof, it almost invariably results in an acquittal because the monitoring company can’t, or won’t, get its act together to send along the employee from the monitoring centre who supposedly saw the alarm go off. The mere fact the monitoring company (not Group 4 in this area) submitted a report to that effect to the Probation Service isn’t, of course, sufficient evidence since it’s only hearsay.

Somewhat alarmingly, Dr Reid told a literally captive audience at Wormwood Scrubs last year that

bringing in volunteer agencies could enable uniformed officers to concentrate on what they do best, and free up probation officers to focus on the most serious criminals.Similarly, private companies have expertise and staff that could accelerate the process. Less than 3% of the probation budget is going to outside contractors, he said, adding, ‘That’s not enough. It’s not enough to provide the stimulus and innovation that everyone agrees the system cries out for, and it’s not enough to lever standards up across the sector.’

Without that kind of across-the-board involvement from outside groups, he said, real change will not happen, and people’s lives will continue to be damaged. So new legislation will now be introduced to increase the proportion of probation service work outsourced to volunteer agencies and private groups.

Well, since electronic tagging is one of the current main examples we have of private companies bringing their expertise and staff to the assistance of the Probation Service, one can’t really regard his plans as building on success, can one?

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1 Comment »

  1. Hobby probation officers? God preserve us. I wonder, too, just what kind of Home Office oversight there would be of private companies, given what’s going on in the privately-run Secure Training Centres (jails for 12-16s). There are serious worries about the use of restraint and physical punishment in STCs, and an inquest into the death of one child following restraint is currently under way. Apparently the Home Office asked to inspect the STC involved and was told to go away…so they did.

    Comment by archrights — April 12, 2007 @ 3:04 pm

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