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By | John Leyden 23rd March 2007 12:13

East Midland's crook tagging shambles exposed

Dodgy kit allows offenders to go walkabout

Technology and procedural shortcomings left tagged offenders released into the community on license unmonitored for weeks, an undercover investigation by the BBC has discovered.

Group Four Securicor (G4S), the firm responsible for tagging and tracking more than 1,000 people across the East Midlands, has suspended five people after admitting it failed its duties in "a small number of cases".

A BBC Inside Out inquiry uncovered evidence of systematic flaws with the firm's systems that left ex-cons - including a number of sex offenders - unmonitored. It also produced evidence of criminal dishonesty.

A BBC reporter obtained the evidence after working undercover with G4S for four months. He filmed workers allegedly faking records of tagged installations in order to meet targets.

Monitoring boxes in the homes of tagged offenders are designed to keep tabs on their whereabouts. But the investigation revealed that unreliable mobile phone technology often led to a failure in the system. A backlog of work meant it sometimes took G4S weeks to arrange a visit to monitored offenders houses in order to replace faulty kit. In the meantime, offenders went unmonitored. "We don't know what they're doing. They could have been in Barbados for a week while it is 'missing status' - we wouldn't know," one staffer told the BBC reporter.

Workers believe that the monitoring technology used by G4S is unreliable. "The kit is rubbish - it lets you down every time," another said.

One offender said he had taken his tag off 10 times during curfew hours, a breach of his bail condition that normally ought to be followed up by the probation service, without any comeback.

The BBC confronted Group Four Securicor with evidence from its investigation. The firm admitted a problem in a limited and unspecified number of cases. It said the equipment it used had been tested and approved by the Home Office.

Harry Fletcher, from the National Association of Probation Officers, questioned the policy of allowing private companies to run tagging schemes. "I knew that there were problems with tagging but what this programme shows it that the problems with tagging are immensely worse than I thought. We have questions of falsifying records, of dishonesty, of faulty equipment, and given that this scheme's been around for the best part of 20 years it is both extremely surprising and very shocking."

The Inside Out East Midlands investigation is due to be broadcast on Friday on BBC 1 at 7.30pm. ®

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