The new GPS location monitoring service is in addition to the current curfew monitoring service, which remains an option available for the management and supervision of defendants and offenders.
The new version of the GPS tags are a new weapon in the arsenal of conditions available for the Courts imposing either bail or sentence upon adult offenders resident in the North West or Midlands areas. No youths can be given a GPS tag at this stage, but it is anticipated to be available from Summer 2019.
Some parts of the GPS system are not yet fully implemented. The ability for 24 hour monitoring a subjects trail won’t be available for Court-Bail and will only be available to be attached to Community Orders and Suspended-Sentence Orders from 1st April 2019 (and subject to Parliamentary approval).
When imposing these GPS tags it is imperative for the court to consider the necessity and proportionality. Any location based restrictions to offer appropriate punishment and/or response to patterns of offending and realism about risk management of the defendant/offender. Examples such as excluding from Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester. The Court will also need to be very specific when setting the boundaries of the exclusion area to ensure for example whether it includes the curtilage/adjacent land/buildings. Exclusion zones can also be time specific.
During the pilot there were examples of the GPS tag providing the exculpatory evidence of innocence that they weren’t in a specific location for a crime alleged. Conversely in another pilot, it proved to be damning evidence as reported here.
The new GPS anklets are more robust than the pilot versions and more tamper proof than the ones used elsewhere in the world.
The at Burton Copeland at Manchester Magistrates Court, and Courts in the surrounding areas of North West England will be ready for the operational start date for these tags and to argue on behalf of clients for or against the imposition of these new GPS tags.
We are also acutely aware of the potential implications under Article 8 Human Rights Act, the right to a right to a family and private life. However we believe that the availability of these tags may persuade more Magistrates and Crown Court judges to bail some defendants/offenders who may have otherwise been risky not to place in custody.
Positive examples for use of the tag could be for defendants to be able to continue to keep gainful employment, provide motivation to keep out of trouble, to provide the offender manager with a better way of keeping track of those they manage. The GPS tags may be more practical in allowing more freedom to offenders who may have otherwise been subject to an electronically monitored tagged curfew.
We share concerns about the police getting access to the data these GPS trackers. Training provided by the Electronic Monitoring Directorate advised that whilst there a process in place for police to make a third party access request, that would be limited to specific allegations of the whereabouts of a specific individual for a specific allegation. The police could not blindly/blanket ask for details of all wearers in a particular area and therefore there cannot be any “fishing expeditions”.