Monitoring system 'puts public at risk'

6:04 am on 30 August 2015

A group representing victims of crime is calling for an overhaul of how electronic monitoring bracelets are used.

An electronic monitoring device.

An electronic monitoring device. Photo: 123RF

A convicted sex offender, Zane McVeigh, led the Wellington police on a brief chase yesterday after removing his electronic bracelet.

It was believed there were still 19 people evading the authorities after removing their devices.

Sensible Sentencing Trust founder Garth McVicar said the monitoring system had systemic problems, and was putting the public at risk.

Garth McVicar.

Garth McVicar. Photo: SUPPLIED

"We advocated that it would only be for low-level, non-violent offenders. But now you're seeing top end, violent offenders being put out there.

"It was always going to happen when they started expanding the use of it," he said.

"Ultimately, really we don't have an option but to use prison more for those violent offenders, and those that are just going to give their middle fingers to the system."

However a group advocating for prison reform, the Howard League, believed the problem did not lie in who was given the bracelets - but in who kept tabs on them.

"The problem lies rather with the monitoring of the bracelets themselves - a failure to properly monitor, or a failure to respond promptly... if there is interference to the bracelet," said Nigel Hampton QC, a patron of the Howard League in Canterbury.

"[The Government] might want to be shaking up some of the contractors that are looking after things ... and enhancing the procedures between those contractors and the police."

Mr Hampton said very few people breached their conditions for electronic monitoring, so he warned against any broad-brush changes to the system.

Greg Newbold, a professor in sociology at the University of Canterbury, said there was nothing wrong with the electronic monitoring bracelets, and no need for a review because so few people broke the rules.

"Those people who violate the conditions should have the bracelets removed and be returned to prison," he said.

"But that's no reason to stop everybody else from using the monitoring devices."

Corrections Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga refused to comment.

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