Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Riot tagging 'would have saved £2m'

Releasing a defendant on an electronic tag instead of remanding them in custody saves 110 pounds per day, figures show

At least £2.4 million would have been saved in the last month alone if all those jailed on remand over this summer's riots were released on curfew with an electronic tag instead, figures have showed.

Some violent and serious offenders will have been unsuitable for tagging, but two in three people who have appeared in court over the violence and looting have been remanded in custody over the last month, compared with just one in 10 of those who committed similar offences last year.

Releasing a defendant on an electronic tag instead of remanding them in custody saves £110 per day, the figures showed.

G4S, the private security firm which runs one of the UK's tagging schemes, said the average operational cost of a curfew was just £13 per day, compared with £123 per day to hold someone in custody, based on a yearly average cost per prison place of £45,000.

More than 700 people have been on remand since the first post-riots court statistics were published last month, Ministry of Justice figures show. If these 700 had been tagged instead of jailed, £110 would have been saved for each defendant every day - some £2.4 million over the last month alone.

The prison population in England and Wales reached an all-time high on Friday, with 87,120 people behind bars, fuelled by the tough treatment of those involved in the riots. But the Government has insisted there will be enough jail places for anyone sentenced to custody as a result of the violence and looting and no places are currently activated under Operation Safeguard, which would involve using cells at police stations as accommodation for prisoners.

John Wheater, managing director of electronic monitoring for G4S, said: "Electronically-monitored curfews are an important part of the criminal justice system in this country as they provide punishment with clear evidence of compliance which is trusted by the judiciary.

"Over the past 16 years we have built up significant expertise and knowledge which has allowed us to contribute to reducing reoffending and, through the sharing of information with partner agencies in the criminal justice system, helps protect the public."

But a Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "To talk about savings in this context is both inaccurate and misleading. The courts rightly base their decisions on how justice is best served, not cost.

"There is no question that these people should have been dealt with any differently in order to save money. We will always uphold the decision of the courts."

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