Clause 16 - Further provision about electronic monitoring requirements

Public Order Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 16th June 2022.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Kit Malthouse Kit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department, The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, Minister of State (Ministry of Justice and Home Office)

Clause 16 allows courts to consider using electronic monitoring as a requirement of an SDPO. Electronic monitoring—or tagging—has been an extremely useful tool to ensure compliance with the terms of existing preventive court orders, such as domestic abuse protection orders. The clause makes it clear to the courts that they may consider making tagging a requirement in an SDPO.

Given that an SDPO may prohibit individuals from being in certain places at certain times of day, electronic monitoring offers the courts and authorities a useful tool with which to ensure compliance. The clause is modelled on the electronic monitoring requirement in the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. Courts will be able to impose electronic monitoring only in cases in which the person subject to an SDPO, and if necessary, a person whose co-operation with the monitoring is required, are present at the hearing. The courts must also be satisfied that the necessary provisions for monitoring exist in their local justice area.

In practice, any notification about electronic monitoring arrangements available to the courts will come from the Ministry of Justice. An SDPO that includes electronic monitoring must also specify the person or authority responsible for the provision of any necessary apparatus and the monitoring of the subject. The clause provides a delegated power for the Home Secretary to identify that responsible person via regulations. Those regulations will not be subject to any parliamentary procedure.

Individuals who are subject to an electronic monitoring requirement must allow the authorised person to install, inspect and repair any of the monitoring apparatus, and take all necessary steps to keep it in working order, including by not interfering with or damaging their tag. Anyone who does so will be in breach of a requirement of their SDPO, which, as clause 20 establishes, is an offence.

We recognise that electronic monitoring is a large intrusion on people’s lives and freedoms, particularly their article 8 right to a private life under the European convention on human rights. To ensure that any electronic monitoring requirement is proportionate, clause 18 provides that any such requirement may last only a maximum of 12 months at a time. However, as I have said, electronic monitoring has already proven a useful tool to ensure compliance with the terms of a range of preventive court orders. The Committee will be aware of our recent expansion of alcohol monitoring, which has been enormously successful. I see no reason why electronic monitoring should not be used in respect of SDPOs.

Photo of Sarah Jones Sarah Jones Shadow Minister (Home Office)

As we have for other amendments, the shadow Home Secretary and I have put our names to amendment 16, which was tabled by the hon. Member for Glasgow North East and would leave out clause 16.

The clause deals with electronic monitoring. I do not have personal experience of tagging, but I have talked to people who have been tagged and monitored, and there is, for sure, a place for it in the justice system. I have even met a gentleman who was involved in crime and gang activity and actually wanted to be tagged so that he could say to the people he was engaging with that he could not participate in anything anymore because he had been tagged and had to stay at home. Tagging meant he had an excuse to get out of the crime he was involved in without having to say to those potentially dangerous people that that was what he wanted.

Although its intrusiveness is an issue, electronic monitoring it does have its place. Labour does not think, however, that its place is in this Bill, and Liberty wrote a comprehensive briefing laying out its concerns about electronic monitoring. We do not believe that electronic monitoring is proportionate for a serious disruption prevention order or that it should be needed after someone has attended a protest. The Minister said there is a 12-month limit on electronic monitoring, but 12 months is a long time.

The original protest banning orders, which were considered by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary and fire and rescue services, were based on football banning orders in Scotland. Research showed that the methods used in policing them were disproportionate, unfair and selective. In 2018, the Ministry of Justice moved from radio frequency tags, which work by detecting when someone has moved out of a particular area past a certain time, such as a curfew, to GPS tags, which provide 24/7 monitoring. That is more intrusive than tagging was previously. Given the breadth and vagueness of the ways in which an SDPO can be imposed, we do not think it is at all appropriate to use such monitoring in this instance.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 16 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.