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Tagged In:  Probation
Only a year ago, the then Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, announced the four companies that would deliver ‘new generation’ GPS tracking of offenders. A year on and those plans have been delayed by a further 12 months. 

British company Steatite was awarded the contract to manufacture the most advanced GPS tracking system in the world. Airbus Defence and Space were announced as preferred bidders for the provision of satellite-mapping with Telefonica providing the network. 

The intention was, and by our understanding still is, to track dangerous and repeat offenders around the clock. Suspects are easily identified as having been at the scene, enabling swifter justice. Not surprisingly, given the potential savings to the forces UK-wide, Police and Crime Commissioners have been largely in support of the introduction of GPS tracking. 

In fact a number of PCCs were vocal about their support when Grayling announced the previous government’s intention to introduce the new GPS surveillance technology to assist with the reoffending of those having served under 12 months in custody. 

We have of course had a general election since then, but Justice Secretary Michael Gove remains unabated in the push for introducing the £265m 6-year contract. We must say though, we’re not surprised that there has been a year’s delay on its introduction. After all, it’s been an extremely impactful year for probation, following the emergence of community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) and the National Probation Service (NPS) under the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda. 

The technology is also not without its problems, as Prisons Minister Andrew Selous reportedly conceded, making last year’s end of year deadline unfeasible. 

A figure of 75,000 offenders, largely a result of speculation, has been bandied about, but if we are talking about a number as high as this, it’ll be difficult to predict what impact GPS tracking will have. 

If we look at comparables in Europe, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, they use GPS tracking on some high risk sex and violent offenders, but the numbers are low and the accompanying tailored support is high. Police forces have also used GPS tracking on a voluntary basis with persistent reoffenders, but it has always been with support from other professionals, including probation officers

It’ll be interesting then, to see what impact the eventual introduction will have on both CRCs and NPS and persistently stubborn reoffending rates. Although, at the moment it’s not entirely clear which offender cohorts will be included, let alone what additional support will be required. 

In the meantime, both G4S and Serco have been given a 15 month extension for continued use of the more basic radio-frequency controlled tagging system.

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