Electronic Tagging

– in the Scottish Parliament on 16th May 2013.

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Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

4. To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government’s position is on the use of electronic tagging of offenders as an alternative to short-term sentences. (S4F-01377)

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

There is strong evidence that community sentences are an effective alternative to short prison sentences. That is clear, because 58 per cent of offenders who are imprisoned for three months or less are reconvicted within a year, compared with only 24 per cent of those who receive a community sentence.

Electronic monitoring has been used in Scotland since 2002. It continues to play a significant part in offender management. We are consulting this summer on the possible development of the electronic monitoring service to include the satellite tracking of offenders.

Photo of Christine Grahame Christine Grahame Scottish National Party

Is the First Minister aware that, in Sweden, anyone who is given a sentence of six months or less can apply to be tagged at home under house arrest while being monitored? If there is any breach, they are returned to jail. Is he also aware that reoffending has fallen to 12 per cent and that the cost to the taxpayer is some £40 per day, not the £165 per day of a prison place? Given that the success of tagging there over 20 years, with the First Minister consider following the Swedish model?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

The Government is always happy to learn about practice in other jurisdictions. In fact, last week, the Government supported and chaired an event at the University of Strathclyde that heard from the head of the Swedish probation service, who outlined how its system operates.

Many of the characteristics of the Swedish system are already in place in Scotland, but the consultation on electronic monitoring this summer will be an opportunity to capture formally any options for improvements. Although we have the lowest crime rate in 37 years, we are always keen to continue to improve whenever we can.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

Thank you, Presiding Officer. I hope that you are feeling well.

I wonder whether the First Minister has had a chance to look at the Official Report of the debate that we had on Tuesday. In that debate, people whom he has classified as offenders were split into two camps: those who had electronic tags and could vote in an election; and those who had received a custodial sentence for the same crime, more or less, and could not vote. Does he agree that that raises a matter of equity that we should consider?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I read the proceedings and thought that it was an excellent debate on all sides as various arguments were put forward. However, I agree with the majority position that was taken in the debate: when people engage in crime and receive a prison sentence, they sacrifice some of their entitlements, such as the entitlement to freedom and, rightly, the entitlement to vote.

It was a good debate on the subject and the way in which it was conducted did the Parliament proud.