David Gauke admits he was Tagged

Justice Secretary David Gauke was urged to follow the Scottish model of a presumption against handing out custodial sentences as he discussed scrapping jail terms of less than six months – and admitted he had been ankle-tagged.

The SNP’s Joanna Cherry said the move could cut the prison population by several thousand if it was introduced south of the border.

But Mr Gauke said his plan to ban short sentences was “not about reducing prison populations”, saying “the big prize to be gained” was in cutting reoffending.

He also agreed that the use of more sophisticated ankle tags could be used to shift more offenders onto community sentences rather than being put in jail.

Speaking during Justice Questions in the Commons, Ms Cherry said “a system that pushes offenders through a revolving door of short prison sentences simply doesn’t work”, saying that the Government and the Justice Committee “have recognised that the system in Scotland is working”.

She told MPs a recent report recommended the whole of the UK “follows Scotland’s approach of presumption against short sentences”, and asked the minister to commit to this.

Mr Gauke said it is already the case that custodial measures are something “that should only be pursued as a last resort”, but said his department is “seeing if we can go further than that”.

He added that he hopes to expand on his proposals “in the very near future”.

He was also asked about recent technological advances in ankle tags, which use GPS to monitor the exact movements of offenders, rather than just if they stray into or away from a designated area.

Conservative MP Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) said they were “a powerful tool for courts to punish offenders in the community while keeping victims safe as an alternative to short sentences”.

Mr Gauke said he “very much agreed”, and revealed he wore one of the tags to test their effectiveness, adding: “Thankfully I had not been up to no good.

“But it was demonstration of how accurate they could be and how effective these GPS tags could be and the considerable potential of reassuring the public of community sentences.”

SFO Confirm Serious Fraud Investigation Into Both G4S & Serco

g4s_logoSERCOESCORT

G4S in 2012

  • £7.3bn turnover
  • Pre-tax profit: £516m
  • Quarter of turnover relates to government contracts
  • Half of business in Europe
  • Value of government contracts: £394m

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) says it has opened an investigation into the government’s contracts with G4S and Serco for tagging criminals.

It comes after an audit suggested the firms had been charging for tagging criminals who were either dead, in jail or never tagged in the first place.

In July, the government had asked the SFO to consider carrying out an investigation into G4S.

G4S said it would co-operate fully with the SFO investigation.

A spokesman for G4S said: “G4S confirms it has today received notice that the director of the Serious Fraud Office has opened an investigation into the ‘contract for the provision of electronic monitoring services, which commenced in April 2005, as amended and extended until the present day’.

“G4S has confirmed to the SFO that it will co-operate fully with the investigation.”

The audit by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, launched in May, alleged that the charging discrepancies began at least as far back as the start of the current contracts, in 2005, but could have dated back to the previous contracts in 1999.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling told the two firms that an independent “forensic audit” – a search for possible illegality – should be conducted, which among other things would need to examine email trails between bosses.

G4S was reported to the SFO when it refused to co-operate with this further audit, while Serco allowed a further forensic audit to take place.

In the course of the audit in September, the Ministry of Justice provided material to the SFO in relation to Serco’s conduct.

G4S made headlines after it failed to provide all of its contracted security guards for the London 2012 Olympics, prompting extra military personnel to be called in to fill the gap and leaving the firm with losses of £88m.