Police say electronic monitoring effective, despite absconders

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Police have expressed confidence in their use of ankle bracelets, despite figures revealing 13% of defendants have escaped electronic monitoring since the scheme was introduced in 2006.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show 255 reports of defendants absconding, among the 1839 subject to electronic monitoring since 2006-07.

The highest number of incidents in a financial year was the 79 recorded in 2011-12.

Electronic monitoring was introduced in 2006, as a cost-effective way of reducing the number of people serving time in prisons. The anklets relay a signal to a control centre.

If a person goes beyond the monitored vicinity of the unit for an unauthorised reason an alarm is raised with police. Police Prosecutions Service operations manager Inspector Mike Johnson said police took ''very seriously anyone absconding or breaching bail conditions and not complying with court orders - and take appropriate action in response''.

The monitoring contract expires in March 2013. Police declined to give details of the cost of each unit, as this could affect commercial negotiations. Police confirmed $1,620,000 had been spent on the monitoring equipment between September 2006 and the end of October 2012.

Insp Johnson said the anklets were physically difficult to remove.

They were designed to alert the monitoring company if they were tampered with, ''so police do not consider the design or security of the technology to be an issue''.''

However, defendants may attempt to abscond withthe anklet still attached, which then alerts the monitoringcompany, who will advise police.''

Police in the Southern District told the ODT there were concerns over who was granted electronic bail, and the ease of which some offenders could remove the devices.

Two recent manhunts were sparked after defendants removed electronic bracelets.

One of those men, Shannon Berryman (23), was on the run for a month before he was found hiding in the ceiling space of an Oamaru address late last month.

Insp Johnson said police had ''every confidence that the technology provides the monitoring company and police with an accurate, prompt and reliable notification of every instance where an [electronic monitored] bailee leaves the bail address without authorisation''.


How it works

• Electronic monitoring on bail provides the courts with an option to bail remand prisoners on condition they are electronically monitored.

• Any person remanded in custody may apply for EM bail.

• Applications are decided on a case-by-case basis. Police oversee aspects of the compliance of those granted bail.

Source: NZ Police

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