Ian Bartlett and Rosemary Collier and partner Ian Bartlett when they were both tagged
by Paul Hooper
The law on criminals' security tagging is set to be strengthened... thanks to a Kent case involving a 68-year-old thief.
It comes after pensioner Rosemary Collier – who was electronically tagged – won a landmark court ruling over security giants G4S.
Collier had been ordered by a judge to wear the device (similar to the one pictured below) after she admitted "plundering the wealth" of a neighbour in Tankerton.
The four-month curfew order meant she had to stay inside her home in Marine Parade from 7pm to 7am between July and November last year.
After the equipment was installed, she also signed an agreement with security company G4S allowing the staff access inside her house to monitor the electronic equipment.
The company alleged that three times in October last year she refused to answer either her front door or telephone – and began breach proceedings that could have resulted in Collier being sent to prison.
A judge at Canterbury Crown Court ruled the G4S monitoring agreement has no force in criminal law – and threw out the case.
Now the Ministry of Justice has issued a statement saying it is strengthening the law in light of the case.
Judge Michael O'Sullivan said Collier had not breached the original court curfew order, which did not include a clause allowing G4S staff to make home visits to monitor its equipment.
His ruling has had widespread implications because a G4S court enforcement officer revealed that “Electronic Monitoring Agreements” are used by all staff all over the country instructed by courts to install the monitoring devices.
The judge said that when G4S officials arrived at Collier’s home in July she was asked to sign up to the second agreement.
It read: “Your staff have told me what I have to do to keep the rules of my monitoring. I understand what will happen if I do not keep to any of these rules. This could meant that I go back to court or to prison.”
Collier was also given a handbook designed by G4S in which it was explained: “From time to time we will also need to contact you in person.
"This will either be over the phone, on the box or by visiting your curfew address. It is important you answer the phone or allow us into your curfew address.”
But the judge said: “In my judgement the order of the court is the governing factor for conditions involving the curfew. There was not a condition in the (court) order saying (Collier) had to answer the door when G4S visited them.
“Unless there is legislation which empowers (G4S) to impose their own conditions - which I very much doubt - then the defendant is not bound by them. The order of the court prevails. “
He said it follows that that there was no lawful authority for Collier to be brought back to court for breaches of her curfew order.
The judge added that if G4S wanted extra powers they would have to come to the court first to ask rights to phone or visit to be included in the court curfew order.
He threw out the case and granted Collier her costs for the two day hearing.
Canterbury Crown Court, where the landmark case was heard
Collier and her 77-year-old partner Ian Bartlett, had "plundered the wealth" of a very ill 85-year-old woman who regarded them as "good friends".
The two were given 10-month jail sentences - suspended for a year - and ordered to repay the £2,100.
Their scam was discovered when nurses alerted police after spotting the couple – who have been together for 20 years - rifling through Mrs Hardy’s handbag and locker.
G4S spokesman Michael Baker said: "We have a duty to inform the relevant authority when an individual refuses to co-operate with our monitoring officers.
"We will continue to bring these kinds of incidents to the notice of the relevant authorities who will decide what action to take."
Releasing a statement after the case, the Ministry of Justice said: "Clearly officers must be able to check and maintain tagging equipment and we will continue to take action against any offender who obstructs this.
"We are already strengthening the law to make it absolutely clear that offenders must allow access to their home so monitoring equipment can be inspected."