HC Deb 19 July 2000 vol 354 cc179-80W
Mr. Lidington

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the basis is for the statement on page 35 of the Government's Annual report 1999–2000, that tagging and curfews are more effective ways of punishing offenders; to what Government initiatives this statement refers; and if he will make a statement. [131379]

Mr. Boateng

[holding answer 18 July 2000]: The introduction of curfew orders enforced by electronic monitoring as a sentence to all courts in England and Wales on 1 December 1999 built on four years of successful trials. Home Office research has shown that the successful completion rate of 82 per cent. during the first two years of the trials of the sentence compared favourably with other community sentences (the completion rate for probation orders was also 82 per cent., while that for community service was 71 per cent.).

The evaluation of the trials found that curfew orders were more strictly enforced than other community sentences, a fact that places greater value on rate of completion. The primary reason for this is the fact that the electronic monitoring contracts leave little discretion in the enforcement of breaches. The monitoring equipment ensures that violations of curfew are detected immediately, and offenders in breach of their order are very quickly returned to court by the contractors.

Curfew orders enforced by electronic monitoring provide the courts with a flexible sentencing option for use in respect of those offences for which the sentence is not fixed by law. Firstly, as a stand-alone sentence, it provides the punitive element of restricting an offender's liberty during the period of the curfew, while enabling those who have families to support to continue to do so. A curfew order can also be used in conjunction with another community sentence to help structure the times of attendance at, for example, probation or drug rehabilitation appointments. The trials of the sentence demonstrated that in this way, electronic monitoring could help to address the chaotic lifestyle of some offenders.

Given the operational effectiveness of curfew orders enforced by electronic monitoring, the sentence can also be shown to provide a cost-effective alternative to a custodial sentence.

The operation of the sentence in England and Wales is the subject of an evaluation by the Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate. The findings of the evaluation of the first two years of the trials of curfew orders enforced by electronic monitoring are published in Home Office Research Study 163 and 177.

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