England to put sobriety tags on prison leavers after Wales pilot
Some offenders being freed from jail in England will be required to wear ‘sobriety tags’, after the scheme was piloted by the Ministry of Justice in Wales.
Under the programme first tried in Wales, electronically monitored tags checked alcohol levels in sweat for former prisoners who are deemed capable of reoffending after drinking.
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said the scheme, which was rolled out in Wales last year, will target at least 1,900 prison leavers over the next two years.
According to the MoJ, the rollout of the scheme in Wales saw offenders on tag sticking to their alcohol restrictions 97% of time.
Criminals caught breaching their alcohol restrictions could face being sent back to jail, the Ministry of Justice said.
An extra £183 million will be funnelled into electronic monitoring by 2025 to almost double the number of offenders tagged at any one time to approximately 25,000.
Dominic Raab said: “We’ve seen that alcohol tags work – with tagged offenders complying 97% of the time.
“That’s why we’re going to double the number wearing them from 900 to 1,900 over the next two years, focusing on those leaving prison on licence.
“This is a big step forward using the latest technology to cut the link between alcohol abuse and the crime – and make our streets safer.”
It comes after Whitehall’s spending watchdog warned the Government had failed to improve its tagging system as intended and lost £98 million trying to do so.
In a report earlier this month, the National Audit Office said attempts to overhaul the scheme had fallen flat because the Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) had failed to deliver a new case management system.
The MoJ said stopping work on a “back-office system” had meant the Government could invest “savings” into its aim to double tagging numbers by 2025.
But shadow justice minister Ellie Reeves described the findings as “yet more evidence… this soft-on-crime Conservative government is letting criminals off and letting victims down through its incompetence”.
The report noted that HMPPS had extended tagging to new groups of offenders, including through the alcohol monitoring service, but warned significant work was still needed to strengthen the system at large.
Sobriety tags were already available to judges to hand down to offenders serving community sentences.
Probation minister Kit Malthouse said: “When I first brought alcohol tags to the UK over a decade ago, I knew that given the chance, they could have a huge impact on crime.
“The great results we have seen so far, and now the expansion announced this week, mean that the use of tagging technology is firmly embedded as a critical tool for offender managers, proving a huge incentive for offenders to change.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.