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Justice Update

Volume 624: debated on Tuesday 28 March 2017

The Ministry of Justice robustly monitors all commercial contracts. In January, officials in my Department notified EMS, the provider of the electronic monitoring service, of an increase in the number of alerts that are raised when the electronic monitoring equipment worn by an offender or suspect is tampered with.

This was investigated by EMS and G4S, the suppliers of straps and tags used to electronically monitor offenders and suspects with a curfew.

At the end of February G4S informed the Ministry of an issue with faulty straps. Ministers were informed of this issue on 14 March.

The monitoring functions of the tags themselves are not affected and the security features within the tags have been working correctly. I can assure the House that there has been no risk to the public.

We understand that the number of affected straps is small. Only straps that have entered the system since October 2016 are affected. This is the point at which the batch of potentially faulty straps entered circulation. G4S has been testing straps. That testing indicates that around 1% (115) of the 11,500 straps in use today are faulty.

If no tampering with the tag has been registered, they have operated as normal. Where a strap is faulty, however, there is a risk that it could incorrectly register that somebody has tampered with it.

There is a small chance that some enforcement action may have been taken against an offender or suspect in response to a false report of a tamper. It does not mean an individual will have been automatically sent to custody. A single tamper alert without any additional evidence of an escalation of risk is likely to result in an alternative outcome, such as a warning letter. So it is unlikely that a first tamper on its own will result in an offender being recalled. The Ministry is working with G4S and EMS to investigate that further. The issue is also being brought to the attention of the courts.

As a result of this issue, all potentially faulty straps will either be removed or replaced. This process is underway. In the interim, we will continue to monitor and respond to tamper alerts ensuring that where it is appropriate to do so enforcement action is taken.

G4S has introduced further quality checks with the strap manufacturer to ensure that no more faulty straps enter the supply chain. The taxpayer will bear no cost for the faults.