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Scotland looks at GPS for offender tagging



Minister points to potential of Global Positioning System as alternative to radio frequency technology in electronic monitoring

GPS technology could be used for electronic monitoring of offenders in Scotland, according to a Scottish Government minister.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said that, after 10 years of using radio frequency technology in monitoring offenders, he is keen to explore the use of new technologies as the Global Positioning System.

Speaking at a conference on electronic monitoring in Perth, Matheson said:  “On the face of it, GPS technology appears to offer potential opportunities for the management of sex offenders or to be used in cases of domestic abuse.”

He added: “We know that the use of electronic monitoring can be flexible and tailored to support the individual, and can be a crucial tool in reducing reoffending by allowing those involved to maintain connections with their family, their community and their employment.”

Space based

GPS was developed as a space based navigation system to provide time and location information, but it has been used in some countries – including the US, Spain and Portugal – for tagging and tracking offenders.

Matheson said it could be used to monitor sex offenders, but also acknowledged that some concerns have been raised about its effectiveness. This led to the creation of an Electronic Monitoring in Scotland Working Group in October of last year, which is currently reviewing and testing the technology.

His comments coincided with the release of a report on electronic monitoring by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research. It says that, while there have been some positive research findings on the use of GPS, there is still a lack of empirical evidence, and that it can cost more than other monitoring options.

It also says that electronic monitoring usually works best when integrated with other surveillance, supervision and risk management measures.

About 800 people per day are subject to electronic monitoring in Scotland. Some are subject to penalties such as Restriction of Liberty Orders and others are offenders released from prison.


Image: DGPS reference station by Stefan Kühn. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons



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