Failures relating to the government’s electronic tagging strategy have wasted around £98m of taxpayer’ money, a report by the Public Accounts Committee says.

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Tagging offenders

Electronic tagging of offenders has been used in the UK since the 1990s. The aim is to allow the police, courts and probation service to monitor an offender’s location, and to check whether the offender is sticking to certain conditions.

There are three main types of tags:

  • Radio frequency tags – which monitor whether an offender has remained at home during their curfew period
  • Combined radio frequency and GPS tags – which track an offender’s location and movements
  • Alcohol monitoring tags – which measure the amount of alcohol in a person’s sweat

Updating the tagging system

In 2006, the Public Accounts Committee raised doubts as to whether tagging offenders actually held any benefit. There was little evidence to suggest that tagging helped to reduce re-offending or promote rehabilitation.

Despite this, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) decided to implement changes to improve the efficiency of tagging. Central to this transformation was the introduction of a new case management system.

However, the project has been subject to significant delays and setbacks. A report by the Public Accounts Committee pointed towards poor oversight of suppliers, an over-ambitious timetable and a lack of scrutiny from the Ministry of Justice.

In total, these avoidable mistakes wasted £98m of taxpayer’ money. The tagging service was then forced to rely on outdated system which needed urgent remedial action, costing a further £9.8m.

The future of tagging

As of March 2022, around 15,300 people were tagged. Going forward, HMPPS intends to expand the service to new types of offenders, resulting in an additional 10,000 offenders being tagged over the next few years.

Currently, four suppliers are used. This includes Capita which runs the live service, and G4S which supplies the tags. HMPPS wants to undertake a major re-procurement of contracts, which are expected to be in place by January 2024. HMPPS expects to spend £1.2 billion from now until 2030/31, including £55 million for the re-procurement, £232 million for expansion projects and £808 million for the live service.

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