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Saturday, 12 July 2014

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Carlisle milkman taken to court for accidentally damaging curfew tag

The troubled G4S security firm took a Carlisle milkman to court yesterday – for accidentally damaging his electronic tag while jumping off his milk float.

The firm – at the centre of the Olympic Games security fiasco – is in charge of monitoring convicted criminals who are put under electronically tagged curfews as part of their punishment.

And when 42-year-old Alan Hodgson accidentally broke the electronic tag which had been fitted around his ankle after he was convicted of a minor public order offence, they prosecuted him for “interfering with a court order by failing to take reasonable care” of it.

But at Carlisle Crown Court yesterday Judge Barbara Forrester threw out the case after hearing that Hodgson had phoned G4S within seven minutes of snapping the tag as he got out of his van outside his home in Warwick Road – and that despite the damage it still worked.

She said the prosecution had failed to show either that he had interfered with the court order or that he had failed to take proper care of the device.

G4S provided two employees to give evidence in court – Robert Heywood, who had originally fitted the device, and Peter Cummins, who replaced it when it was broken.

Mr Heywood said the tag was secure when it was fitted around Hodgson’s ankle and there was no reason for it to have become dislodged.

Mr Cummins, who went to Hodgson’s home to repair the tag two days after it was damaged, said it would have taken “considerable force” to break it.

But, he said, it was still around Hodgson’s ankle when he got there and confirmed that it was still working well enough to have alerted the authorities if he had broken his curfew by leaving his home when he should not have done.

After hearing the evidence from the two men – both G4S field monitoring officers – Greg Hoare, defending, said Hodgson did not seem to have any case to answer.

There was nothing to suggest Hodgson had deliberately damaged the device, or to cast doubt on his claim that the tag bracelet was snapped when it was caught on his other leg when he was getting out of his van.

“I am not sure there has been an actual offence made out here,” he said.

Judge Forrester agreed and dismissed the case.

She said G4S’s case seemed to be only that “they (the tags) don’t usually come off in that way”.

She said it was significant that Hodgson’s curfew banned him from leaving his home between 4pm and 11pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays – and the tag was broken at 9am on a Wednesday.

She said she could not see in what way the court order had been interfered with – and said the fact that G4S had had to go to Hodgson’s home to repair the tag could not be classed as “interference”.

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