Criminals caught breaking tag rules

One in five criminals released early on electronic tags were returned to prison for breaching curfews in three years, new figures have revealed.

A total of 1222 criminals were let out early from Edinburgh’s Saughton Prison and Addiewell Prison in West Lothian between 2010 and last year and given tags to wear.

But figures showed that 238 – or one in five – were sent back to jail for breaching the conditions of their release.

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The criminals walked free from prison under the home detention curfew (HDC) scheme, which is supposed to see offenders confined to their homes for 12 hours a day under electronic tag monitoring.

At Addiewell Prison, 599 were freed early under the scheme with 130 breaching their conditions, or 22 per cent.

Across Scotland’s jails, 5548 criminals were released on tags with 1191 returned to a cell for flouting the terms.

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont said today that the scheme showed why “victims feel repeatedly failed” by the justice system. He said: “It’s bad enough for victims of crime and public safety that thousands upon thousands of dangerous criminals are let go after serving half or three-quarters of their sentence under automatic early release.”

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“Now we learn thousands more are serving only 25 per cent of the initial service handed down through this scheme.”

The scheme came into use in 2006, targeted mainly at inmates serving short terms, and means that someone sentenced in court to two years in jail can be released after serving just six months.

Last year, 127 criminals were recalled to custody in Scottish jails for leaving their homes for upwards of six hours when they were supposed to be under house arrest. And since January 2010 another 127 have been hauled back to jail after committing new offences while on the tags.

A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said: “HDC is not an entitlement and prisoners are only eligible if they are considered at low-risk of re-offending, have a suitable address and have not previously breached HDC.

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“They must be towards the end of their sentence and a number of categories of prisoner are excluded.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman: “Anyone granted a Home Detention Curfew Order is subject to strict monitoring conditions. We are committed to ending automatic early release when it is feasible to do so.”

Disgraced former MSP Tommy Sheridan, who was released early from Barlinnie, had his tag removed last July after serving six months of a perjury sentence at home.