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Electronic Tagging of Offenders

Volume 703: debated on Tuesday 9 November 2021

I am happy to report excellent progress on our electronic monitoring programme. We recently expanded our world-first acquisitive crime project, GPS tagging all those released from prison who were convicted of those crimes, to cover half of England and Wales. Between April and September, more than 1,500 offenders had to wear a sobriety tag.

The Minister will know that it is actually a relatively small number of hardcore, prolific offenders who are responsible for so much of the misery that is inflicted on our constituents. I therefore welcome the progress on tagging and encourage him to think about other offences that we could use it on. What discussions has he had with the police about the resources that they need to bring back in people who may be breaching their tags?

It is typical of my hon. Friend to think about the burden on policing. He is one of the primary supporters of the police in this House; I am grateful to him for that. We hope that the GPS tagging programmes—specifically, as he says, for prolific acquisitive criminals—will actually reduce the burden on policing. As he knows, something approaching 50% of offenders who have been burglars or robbers go on to reoffend. By putting a tag on their ankle so that we know where they are 24 hours a day, we essentially put a probation officer or police officer alongside them. We hope that that will be a huge deterrent. It also means that if there is a breach or somebody is identified as being at the same place that a crime has occurred at the same time, it is much easier for the police to find them because we can track them down through the tag. As we expand the programme further, from six to 19 police forces across the country, we need to monitor the impact on policing, albeit that, thus far, the police are enthusiastic proponents of the scheme.

Newcastle-under-Lyme plays host to the North Staffordshire Justice Centre, so I know that my constituents will welcome what the Minister has said. What steps will he take to invest in the latest technological advances, so that tagging will keep pace with the behaviour of offenders?

That is a brilliant question, not least because my hon. Friend has put his finger on the button of where we need to go next. As part of the £183 million that the Treasury has now invested—with some confidence, I like to think—in the future roll-out of our electronic monitoring programme, we have £19 million to invest in future technology. In particular, I am keen to stimulate the market to find the holy grail of tagging, which would be a drugs tag that we could fit to the ankle of offenders with that kind of problem, and therefore deter them from taking drugs in the first place.