Electronic tagging on trial in Bolton stand off

Electronic tagging on trial in Bolton stand off
Political Correspondent A magistrates court has raised the issue of the legal effectiveness of electronic tagging of offenders after a prostitute successfully evaded punishment for breaching her curfew by claiming her answerphone and fax machine “overrode” the electronic tagging monitoring equipment. Initially mystified by the incident, the Home Office has said it was satisfied that the tagging equipment was not affected by fax and answerphones. Summonses against Sonia Louise Allen from Bolton issued by Securicor Custodial Services were withdrawn on the orders of the town’s magistrates after the 21-year-old pleaded the effects of interference with the monitoring equipment. Securicor and the Home Office both deny any equipment compatibility problem, but the decision by a court in one of the pilot areas for tagging could be embarrassing for the scheme which is being rolled out nationwide. The Magistrates accepted evidence that the answerphone and fax machine “overrode” the tagging device when they were in use and that therefore the summonses alleging breach of the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew could not be proved. Securicor said in a statement: “In our experience fax and answering machines have not interfered with the satisfactory operation of the electronic monitoring equipment.” It continued: “As a precautionary measure, we instruct offenders not to attach such devices to the telephone line. This is simply to ensure that the line is free when the unit has to make its standard calls and in the event of any violation.” Securicor went on to say that Allen’s absence was verified after it was been reported by the home monitoring unit and by a visit from Securicor officers. Securicor said that they agreed that the summons be withdrawn “in the interests of saving court time” on the grounds that if the summons was contested by Allen then it would not be returned to court until after the curfew order had concluded.


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