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Our growing love affair with tagging

Work with offenders on the latest electronic monitoring figures

Yesterday the Ministry of Justice published the electronic monitoring statistics for the most recent financial year; for the first time putting all the different data about different forms of tagging in one place. There are now a number of different tags in place: the basic tag used to enforce curfews, GPS tagging which constantly monitors where an individual is and the alcohol monitoring tags which perform around-the-clock monitoring of an offender’s sweat to determine whether alcohol has been consumed. These tags, used to enforce Alcohol Abstinence Monitoring Requirements which are attached to a community order, samples the tag wearer’s sweat every half-hour to determine whether alcohol has been consumed. They can distinguish between alcohol-based products, such as hand sanitiser, that could be used to mask alcohol consumption and can detect when contact between the skin and the tag has been blocked.

Findings

The headline finding is a big (9%) increase in the year-on-year number of people subject to tagging. Between 31 March 2021 and 31 March 2022, the number of individuals actively monitored increased. For most of the year the numbers of individuals actively monitored remained broadly stable, at around 14,000 people. However. from the middle of 2021/22 the caseload began to increase, and has now reversed the decreasing trend seen between 2015 and 2020. This increase was driven by extensions to the use of location (GPS) monitoring tags for new offender cohorts, particularly its use for immigration bail, as well as the roll-out of alcohol monitoring tags.

The data is slightly complicated because one person may be given several tagging orders at the same time and/or over the course of a year. Therefore there will be more active orders at any one time than there are people being monitored.

The breakdown of the figures is interesting to see with different trends at work:

Interestingly, the number of people subjected to the two most common categories of electronic tagging – bail and court orders – fell substantially. However, this fall was offset by the increase in the number of people being released from prison with a tag and the number of people on immigration orders required to wear one.

The other big increase was in the number of alcohol monitoring orders, all of which require people to wear a tag. There were 3,621 alcohol monitoring orders imposed across England and Wales last year, a large increase from the 123 seen in the year ending March 2021. This primarily reflects the roll-out nationally of alcohol monitoring as a sentencing option. Correspondingly the number of individuals with an alcohol monitoring tag increased from 36 as at 31 March 2021 to 900 a year later.

At the end of March this year, the compliance rate of those fitted with an alcohol tag was 97.2%. Compliance with alcohol monitoring is a cumulative measure, calculated as the total number of days in which the tag has not generated a tamper or alcohol alert divided by the total number of days the tag was fitted, since alcohol tags were introduced in October 2020. In other words, alcohol monitoring tags seem to be effective in preventing people drinking, at least in the short term.

The Ministry of Justice has continuously talked about its expansion of GPS tagging in particular and it may be that this year sees the first substantial increase in its use.

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