Daily Archives: October 2, 2011

British govt plans massive expansion of GPS tracking


The use of electronic tagging has grown rapidly since it was first used in 1999 by courts to enforce curfews. Photograph: Chris Radburn/PA

More than 30 firms said to be keen to bid for new contracts as Ken Clarke seeks to improve confidence in alternatives to prison

Ministers plan big rise in use of electronic tags on offenders

Guardian | Sep 29, 2011

by Alan Travis

Ministers are preparing for a massive expansion in electronic tagging of offenders, with private security companies being invited to bid for more than £1bn worth of contracts next month.

The use of electronic tagging has grown rapidly since it was first used in 1999 by courts in England and Wales to enforce curfews. Now more than 20,000 offenders are monitored by private security firms on any given day.

The current eight-year contracts, which are held by G4S and Serco electronic monitoring services, are due to end shortly. The Ministry of Justice says more than 30 companies have expressed an interest in competing for the new contracts when bids are invited this October.

Fewer than 3,500 electronic tagging orders were made in 1999, a figure that rose to cover more than 70,000 people last year. It is estimated that more than 450,000 people in England and Wales have spent time electronically tagged over the past decade.

The justice secretary, Ken Clarke, is planning a further significant expansion in the use of tagging as part of his drive to improve public confidence in alternatives to prison. His sentencing and punishment bill, which is now before parliament, will give the courts powers to extend the tag curfew limit from 12 hours a day to 16. The bill also proposes doubling the length of a curfew order from six to 12 months.

The extension of tagging comes as G4S prepares to take over the Victorian inner city prison at Winson Green, Birmingham, this weekend, the first in the UK to be transferred from the public to private sector. Serco is about to start the first “payment by results” offender services pilot scheme at Doncaster prison with similar schemes to follow at eight more prisons. Plans for the largest-ever wave of jail privatisation with nine public sector prisons being put out to tender this autumn have already been announced.

Only last week the justice minister, Lord McNally, warned a Liberal Democrat conference fringe meeting of the danger of a “semi-monopoly” developing with the largest security companies, such as G4S and Serco, winning the majority of justice contracts.

The main form of tagging used in England and Wales involves the offender wearing a tag around their ankle or wrist which sends a signal back to a monitoring unit at their home address. A text message-style signal is sent to the company’s monitoring centre if the offender breaks the circuit by leaving home during the curfew hours. Tagging is used both as a community penalty and to monitor prisoners released early on home detention curfews.

The latest expansion in tagging comes despite official statements that electronic tags have no impact in reducing the reoffending rates of criminals or the number of contractual penalty payments of more than £273,000 over the past four years by G4S and Serco for service failures.

“The re-competition [sic] of these contracts offers the market an opportunity of significant scale (based on current spend, the total contract value is likely to be in the region of £1bn),” says the Ministry of Justice in its latest competition strategy document.

Ministers hope the new contracts will cut the current unit cost of £1,063 for a 90-day adult curfew and £1,935 for a 120-day juvenile curfew.

“The expected reductions in the unit cost of delivery are likely to provide significant opportunities for both savings and service improvement. This will also provide opportunities for greater involvement of small and medium enterprises – in this case, companies offering innovative tagging technology,” says the strategy.

Up until now more ambitious uses of electronic tagging, such as satellite tracking and voice verification to monitor an individual’s daily movements, have been limited by the impact of tall buildings on the patchy mobile phone networks the system relies on.

The Ministry of Justice has always maintained that tagging provides the courts with a credible alternative to prison. But ministers admitted to MPs two years ago: “Current evidence suggests that electronic monitoring has a neutral effect on reoffending. However, international research does suggest that it can be effective in helping to ensure compliance with other, more rehabilitative, community penalties.”

Harry Fletcher of Napo, the probation service union, said he was shocked that tagging had become a £1bn industry: “There is no evidence that tagging has any impact on reducing crime. It is also very expensive, with a 90-day tag costing £1,100 to the taxpayer. That is for an outlay of only £400 to £500 assuming only one call-out to the offender for each order. So there is a huge markup,” he said.

Schwarzenegger commissions ‘Fantastic’ bronze statues in honor of himself


Arnold Schwarzenegger gets his first look at a larger than life clay sculpture of himself by artist Ralph Crawford in February 2011 Photo: EPA

“This is fantastic. This is fantastic.”

Schwarzenegger statues: Ex-governor commissions bronzes

latimes.com | Sep 30, 2011

Arnold Schwarzenegger has commissioned as many as seven 8-foot-tall, 580-pound bronze statues of himself.

Schwarzenegger commissioned the sculptures — at least one of which depicts him as extremely buff, in a bodybuilder pose — from an Oregon company.

The New York Daily News reported on the statues, pointing to an account from Oregon’s Wallowa County Chieftain newspaper, which carried the headline “Arnold Schwarzenegger Likes His Likeness.”

According to the Oregon paper, Schwarzenegger earlier this month visited Wallowa’s TW Bronze, where he gave the statues his thumbs-up.

The Chieftan said the castings had been fashioned 1 1/4 times larger than life.

Related

Tim Parks, the owner of TW Bronze, said Schwarzenegger was pleased, according to the Daily News, and told him:  “This is fantastic. This is fantastic.”

In May, the Los Angeles Times broke the news of the former California governor having fathered a child with a longtime household staff member.

Amid the public outcry following that revelation, Schwarzenegger said he deserved “the feelings of anger and disappointment among my friends and family.”

As for the man creating the statues for Schwarzenegger, Parks said, “None of that stuff means anything to me. That’s his personal life. I don’t think it’s anybody’s business.”

Reportedly, one of the statues is headed to Schwarzenegger’s childhood home, which is now a museum, in Austria.

Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger may be at work on a memoir.

The Times reported last week that Simon & Schuster will publish the book, with a working title of “Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story.”

It will chronicle Schwarzenegger’s rise from bodybuilder to movie star and politician.

Senior judge of Scotland and Queen’s Counsel invested with Papal Knighthood into the Order of St Gregory the Great at the Red Mass


Sunday’s Mass was an extra special occasion for Lord Gill (left), the Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland, when Cardinal O’Brien (right), representing Pope Benedict XVI, bestowed upon him the Papal Knighthood.

Cardinal O’Brien presents Papal knighthood at Red Mass

“It is an honour and a privilege to receive a knighthood from this great Pope,” Lord Gill said.

sconews.co.uk | Sep 30, 2011  

BY Martin Dunlop

Cardinal Keith O’Brien was the main concelebrant at the annual Red Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, on Sunday, marking the opening of the new legal year in Scotland.

Sunday’s Mass was an extra special occasion for Lord Gill, the Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland, when his outstanding service to public life in the country was recognised. Cardinal O’Brien, representing Pope Benedict XVI, bestowed upon him the Papal Knighthood.

Joining the cardinal and Lord Gill at Sunday’s Mass, were various members of the legal profession in Scotland and their families, including Lord Gill’s fellow judges, Lord Hardie, Lord Drummond Young, Lord Matthews and Lord Doherty.

Also present were Frank Mulholland QC, the Lord Advocate, Richard Keen QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, and Austin Lafferty, vice president of the Law Society of Scotland.

In his homily at Sunday’s Mass, Cardinal O’Brien urged Catholic lawyers in Scotland to remain strong and true to their religious beliefs.

“There is no doubt that one of the biggest challenges facing Catholic lawyers in Scotland today is a challenge which has faced many people and different groups in society down the ages: how do you live and act out your professional lives while at the same time remaining true to the teachings and doctrine of the Church?” Cardinal O’Brien said. “Specifically for lawyers the challenge must be how can you represent your clients’ interests to the best of your abilities while applying the law of the land, when at times these two pressures may be in conflict with your own Catholic Faith.”

The cardinal said that, in so doing, he was ‘echoing the words’ of Pope Benedict XVI during his address at Westminster Hall during his visit to the UK last September.

“The Pope called upon the lay Faithful, ‘within their respective spheres of influence,’ to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between Faith and reason at every level of national life,” the cardinal said, while encouraging those present to consider the message of the day’s readings and take confidence from the Word of God.

Prior to bestowing upon Lord Gill—who was attending his 44th consecutive Red Mass—the Papal Knighthood, the cardinal spoke about Lord Gill’s life and some of his many achievements.

Following on primary and secondary schooling at St Thomas’ Primary School and St Aloysius’ College, Glasgow, Lord Gill attended Glasgow University, gaining the degrees of MA and LLB before being called to the Scottish Bar as an Advocate in 1967.  From 1964 to 1977 he lectured in the Faculty of Law at the University of Edinburgh.

Lord Gill went on to become an Advocate Depute; then, as an Advocate. He was also appointed as Standing Junior Counsel to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Home Office and the Scottish Education Department; and in 1981, he was appointed a Queen’s Counsel.

Appointed a judge in 1994—at that time the only serving Catholic judge in Scotland—Lord Gill went on to become chairman of the Scottish Law Commission, a post he held until 2001 when he was appointed Lord Justice Clerk.

“Lord Gill is at present Scotland’s longest serving judge—undertaking a review of the Scottish Civil Courts on behalf of the Scottish Government and fulfilling various other roles on behalf of the UK and Scottish Governments,” the cardinal said. “He has enjoyed the support of his wife, Kate, and family, having been married for 42 years and having five sons and one daughter along with 14 grandchildren.  He is a loyal and active parishioner in St Columba’s Parish, Edinburgh and at national level has assisted the Bishops of Scotland.

“It is then I am sure you will agree, entirely appropriate that the Holy Father has seen fit to recognise Lord Gill’s exceptional contribution to public life in Scotland and to graciously bestow on him the honour of a Knighthood of the Order of St Gregory the Great.

“It is an award that I am sure will be warmly welcomed by both the Catholic Community and the whole legal profession.”

“It is an honour and a privilege to receive a knighthood from this great Pope,” Lord Gill said. “I was touched by the gracious words of the cardinal at the Red Mass.”