UK considers 'sobriety tags', GPS tracking for offenders

The Ministry of Justice has  plans to roll out GPS tracking for community offenders as part of a consultation launched today.

Proposals set out “radical reforms” according to the MOJ, in a bid to reduce the £10 billion cost per year for re-offenders sentenced to less than 12 months.

Electronic monitoring and tracking through ankle tags has so far been used to monitor the offender curfews, typically from 7am to 7pm.

The MOJ has outlined its plans to introduce GPS tracking in more “creative” ways.

One of the problems that has so far limited the use of electronic monitoring using radio frequency (RF) devices has been limited transmission capabilities.  These tags are only able to send a signal to a Home Monitoring Unit receiver. 

GPS and GSM technology are now being put forward as ways to more accurately monitor the movements of offenders which would be an improvement on the current ankle tags. 

Subject to adequate funding, this could mean that new technologies could be used for area exclusion requirements, for example – in order to prohibit an offender’s movement to specific areas they have been banned from.  

It could even prohibit foreign travel, and the consultation also highlights the possibility of ‘sobriety’ tags.

While these measures would give greater flexibility to implement community orders there are concerns over civil liberties, which the MOJ says it will address in the consultation.

“We will need to full consider the civil liberties implications of these proposals,” the consultation stated.

“Appropriate safeguards would also need to be in place to ensure that the new technology is used appropriately, and to ensure compatibility with human rights and data protection requirements.”