A tin foil “workaround” for evading the watchful eye of electronic monitoring has been circulating among criminals since at least 2018.
Despite this, and what should have been widespread awareness among authorities, the number of people on monitored bail increased from 495 in 2017 to more than 2300 this year.
It must have been galling indeed for police and Corrections staff, under orders to manage the scheme, to have faultily manacled crims laughing all the way to the bank, or wherever else they wanted to go. Little wonder then that a damning internal report came into the hands of investigating Herald journalist Sam Sherwood when he began asking questions about the practice.
The report, written by Canterbury police, states the public “cannot confidently be assured by the current system”. Horrifyingly, the report includes photographs of offenders at crime scenes in their aluminium-wrapped devices.
Inspector Andrew Fabish, the director of deployment at police, has said the report was an “internal document”, produced in the police district to help “best deploy resources to keep communities safe”.
“Some of the points in the report do not take into account the national picture of electronically monitored bail and the ongoing shared work by police and Corrections.”
This seems an attempt, but a failed one, to diminish the reality that criminals are “regularly” exploiting a “significant vulnerability” by wrapping tin foil around their ankle bracelets and going out to reoffend.
When a man on home detention can leave his home, undetected, travel to his ex-partner’s home to lay in wait and hold her against her will, assault her multiple times, threaten to kill her and try to stab her, this is not a working solution. We now know that nearly 50 people are on EM bail for “homicide and related offences”, alongside 70 accused of kidnapping and abduction.
Fabish said the police and Corrections were collaborating to “streamline processes” and reduce the number of people offending while on bail. But this is what they should be doing, isn’t it?
Hopefully, the introduction of a new police national bail co-ordination role, to focus on electronic-monitored bail, and embedded with Corrections from early next month, might find some improvements. But it should not have taken this long for such a position to be sought, nor for improvements to be made to the reliability of the devices.
The Herald reported on how offenders were thwarting the system five years ago. Even then, offenders were sharing information on social media on how to wrap their monitoring devices in foil; some claimed to have been using the avoidance practice for some time.
If the devices are so easily subverted, they are not fit for purpose and their use should be discontinued. There is little point in a monitoring system that can readily be disabled.
Offenders may think they are being clever by wrapping their home-D bracelets in bags from supermarket chicken rotisserie ovens, but police and Corrections must step up to the plate and enforce the sentences handed down by the courts.
If such basic leaks in the electronic monitoring system cannot be plugged, the option at sentencing will have to be withdrawn.