The government has begun implementing a programme that puts sensors at the heart of a new offender tracking system.

Justice Secretary David Gauke this week announced the beginning of a national rollout of a new GPS tagging system, which the government said will provide 24/7 location monitoring of offenders.

The controversial programme will “help strengthen supervision, enforce exclusion zones, and give victims greater peace of mind”, according to the announcement.

If a tagged criminal – such as a domestic abuser or stalker – enters a forbidden area, the system will trigger an automatic alert that includes the offender’s location.

The tags provide a “tougher option” for community sentences, which can be used alongside requirements like alcohol or drug treatment programmes, added the government.

Offenders who could be eligible for the tags include those under court-imposed bail, community orders, or with suspended sentences, as well as those on Home Detention Curfew and indeterminate-sentenced prisoners released by the Parole Board.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said, “GPS tagging will help to better protect victims and give them the reassurance that perpetrators will not be able to breach an exclusion zone without triggering an immediate alert.

“I am confident that this important new technology will become a vital tool to increase public protection and strengthen options for tougher community sentences.”

The system has so far been deployed in three regions – the North West, Midlands, and North East – and will go live in the South West, South East, and Wales by April.

The technology is also set to be piloted in London to monitor knife crime offenders who have been released from prison. They will have their movements checked against locations of reported crimes, in an effort to tackle violence in the capital, said the government.

In a speech on 18th February, Gauke suggested that the government is exploring other ways that digital technologies could be used to manage offenders in the community as part of a “smart justice system”.

“Technology can monitor whether an offender has consumed alcohol, and it enables us to be able to better restrict and monitor alcohol consumption where it drives offending behaviour,” he said.

He added that he and the Health Secretary “want to explore how innovative digital technologies can be put to use to serve the mental health needs of our prisoners”.

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