Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence

Memorandum 120

Supplementary evidence from the Ministry of Justice


  The Committee has requested a brief memorandum on satellite tracking of offenders, following evidence presented to the Committee by David Williams, Director General of the British National Space Centre. He referred to the interest shown by the Home Office in the use of satellites for prisoner "tagging", which we understand to be a reference to tracking or location monitoring.

  The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) undertook three satellite tracking pilot programmes in Greater Manchester, West Midlands and Hampshire between September 2004 and June 2006. Over 500 offenders, either as a condition of their licence on release from prison or as part of a community order, were satellite tracked during the programmes. Tracking was used as an additional layer of supervision to what could be, in the case of a very high risk offender, a comprehensive multi-layered programme.

  One of the objectives of the pilots was to gain practical experience of tracking technology. GPS (Global Positioning by Satellite), a US defence satellite network, has been used to monitor the location of offenders in the community since the mid 1990s. It was recognised during the pilot programmes that satellite tracking cannot guarantee complete coverage of an offender's movements, but technology continues to advance. The Home Office Scientific Development Branch works closely with NOMS and other government departments, including BNSC, to ensure it can bring the most effective technologies to bear on delivery objectives. The department has a wide range of security needs, some of which can be aided through space based technology. On tracking, Galileo may offer more resilient signals than other systems which might enhance location operation in buildings, potentially increasing the range of options for offender monitoring.

  The pilot programmes were subject to a full evaluation, the final report on which is due to be published shortly. The future of satellite tracking to monitor offenders is currently being reviewed by a Working Group established across NOMS and the Home Office and will be considered under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice.

May 2007

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