Now mentally ill offenders could be tagged and set free
MENTALLY ill criminals could be fitted with electronic tags and released into the community under plans to transform the justice system.
In a move that has sparked fears over public safety, proposals are being drawn up to trial ‘electronic monitoring’ for ‘mentally disordered offenders’.
At present, criminals whose offending is judged to be the result of mental illness are not jailed, but instead are detained for treatment in secure psychiatric hospitals.
However, proposals revealed in official documents from a meeting at the State Hospital at Carstairs raise the prospect of offenders being freed with a tag.
Last night critics warned that the scheme could be an attempt to cut costs, which could put members of the public in danger. One consultant who has worked in some of the UK’s most secure hospitals said the move could prove ‘catastrophic’.
He added: ‘This is one of the initiatives that has clearly emanated from a Scottish Government wishlist because it might have been tried elsewhere, but it makes little sense. I can only think they’ve looked at the effects and savings of having prisoners on a tag at home. In those cases, if the prisoner is not where he should be, the tag makes sure he is caught and returned to prison, with the consequences rarely being severe.
‘When you are dealing with mental health, how can electronic monitoring help you predict that a patient is going to become unwell, that the depressive illness or psychosis that affects them is about to take control? In cases like that, the effect could be catastrophic. It is not a good idea.’ Annie Wells, Scottish Conservative mental health spokesman, said: ‘There is definitely a place for the tagging of certain patients who are in the State Hospital, especially when it comes to rehabilitation and reintegration.
‘But public safety has to be the number one concern here. The motivation for doing this must be correct and not simply a costcutting exercise by the SNP.’
The proposals, which will fuel concerns about the Scottish Government’s soft-touch justice system, were revealed in papers from a State Hospitals Board of Scotland meeting last month.
The agenda papers said: ‘The Forensic Network were requested by the Scottish Government to set up a working group to explore views and possibilities for use of electronic monitoring with mentally disordered offenders.
‘The group is cross-disciplinary with representation from police, criminal justice, social work... and prisons. The work of the group is ongoing and a report is expected to be submitted to the Scottish Government by November 2017.’ The Scottish Mail on Sunday understands that report is set to be delivered next month.
However, the Scottish Government insisted Carstairs patients would not be eligible; instead, the focus of any trial of electronic monitoring would be patients in the other secure psychiatric units.