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The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today announced additional funding to boost innovative programmes to tag knife crime and domestic abuse offenders with a GPS tracking device on

release from prison in a drive to cut reoffending, improve rehabilitation and reduce the risk victims face when an offender is released.

City Hall investment has now funded 600 tags - GPS tracking devices that are fitted to violent offenders and domestic abuse perpetrators after release from prison as part of strict new licence conditions. Sadiq is now directing an additional £350,000 – on top of £2 million already invested to tag persistent and violent offenders – to provide tags for 300 knife crime and domestic abuse offenders.

Evidence shows that GPS tracking devices can play an important role in ensuring offenders comply with the conditions of their release, helping police and probation services to reduce the risk faced by victims of domestic abuse, as well as ensuring that those who reoffend can be swiftly returned to prison. Of the 600 tags fitted to date, more than half of the offenders successfully completed their probation and 160 offenders fitted with GPS tracking devices were found to have breached the conditions of their release, and were returned to prison.

The Mayor launched a GPS tagging pilot for knife crime offenders in February 2019 and has since expanded the programme to cover every borough in London. This means that knife-crime offenders released from prison can be given GPS monitoring as part of the conditions of their release, allowing probation staff to monitor movements and challenge the offender about their lifestyle and behaviour. This includes monitoring locations which the offender is prohibited from visiting, for instance due to gang links, and probation staff can then take swift enforcement action if the offender breaches the terms of their release. Under the scheme, knife crime offenders who are deemed at a high risk of reoffending have their movements automatically checked against the location of reported violent crimes, with significant matches shared with local police. During the knife crime pilot programme, probation staff specifically highlighted that introducing GPS tagging for domestic abuse offenders would be beneficial in protecting victims in domestic abuse cases. 

As a result, in March, Sadiq launched the first-ever UK pilot programme to tag perpetrators of domestic abuse to better protect victims of abuse and address the behaviour of offenders. Offenders who have served a prison sentence for a domestic abuse-related offence, such as stalking, harassment, physical abuse, sexual abuse and coercive control, can be tagged with a GPS tracking device as part of their release conditions. The tags, which monitor their location, enable probation services and the police to ensure offenders are following the conditions of their release and take action if they breach these conditions or commit a criminal offence. This includes conditions such as not entering ‘exclusion zones’ which could cover the address of a victim, or ensuring that offenders are arrested if they breach a restraining order, as well as providing GPS location data that can be used to verify a victim’s account of any re-offending behaviour.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Tackling violence and making our city safer is my number one priority and I’m determined to be tough on crime and tough on the complex causes of crime. Tackling violence is about real long-term change and turning around the lives of those at risk of reoffending and violence. 

“That’s why I’m boosting my investment in GPS tags for knife crime offenders and perpetrators of domestic abuse. In London, we’ve seen the impact tagging offenders on release from prison can have on ensuring they comply with the conditions of their release, as well as making sure those who reoffend are swiftly returned to prison. This innovative programme aims to change offenders’ behaviour, reduce reoffending, and provide increased protection for victims.”

Pamela Spring, Head of Public Protection for the Probation Service in London, said: “Against a background of increased levels of knife crime, the use of GPS tagging for knife crime offenders is an integral part of London Probation Service’s strategy to manage the risk knife crime offenders present in order to better protect our communities and reduce the number of victims.”

Alexandra Naughton, Probation Officer at Waltham Forest Probation Office, said: “The person I worked with on probation has struggled quite a lot and this is the longest he has been in the community since he was a teenager. Having the tag has allowed us to have open conversations about how he is spending his time and allows me to understand his life and for him to understand concerns I might have. He really understands the tag because it is with him all the time so he doesn’t forget about the conditions on him and can use it to explain to friends why he can’t do certain things. I am really happy he is doing so well, and he starts a new job next week.” 

Andrew Kay, Probation Service Officer at Haringey Probation Office, said: “I found the process of tagging and curfew to be very useful in terms of an extra pair of eyes over my person on probation.  It has, in many ways, made my supervision more effective and, for the person on probation, they buy into why it’s necessary and, in the two cases I’ve had, has helped with their overall compliance.” Photo by MatthiasKabel, Wikimedia commons.