Sex offender who cut off GPS-tracking device raises concerns about Victoria’s prison monitoring system
Police have raised concerns that the system used to monitor Victorian prisoners is not working, as the search continues for a sex offender who cut off his GPS-tracking bracelet and walked out of a correctional facility.
Andrew Darling, 42, has not been seen since the early hours of Sunday morning when he walked out of the Corella Place correctional facility at Ararat in the state’s west.
Another sex offender, Sean Carmody-Coyle, 28, managed to escape twice – in June 2013 and also in February this year.
The secretary of the Police Association of Victoria Ron Iddles said the current monitoring system being used at Corella Place is not working.
We have issues in relation to black spots or at times it’s dropping the signal, and it needs to be totally improved.Ron Iddles, Police Association of Victoria
“Over the past few months there’s been some problems with these monitoring systems whereby the signal has actually been dropping out, which is of grave concern,” Mr Iddles told 774 ABC Melbourne.
“We have issues in relation to black spots or at times it’s dropping the signal, and it needs to be totally improved.
“The intention is good, but if the signal doesn’t send a signal at all times or it’s not monitored for some reason then there’s a problem with it.”
Victorian Government frontbencher Matthew Guy said there would be an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the escape.
“Clearly it’s not good enough and clearly there needs to be an investigation into how this occurred,” Mr Guy said.
“I simply say though, that this Government is committed to having more people behind bars who deserve to be behind bars. Our opponents put people back into home detention and people back out on the streets who shouldn’t be there.”
Commissioner happy with system
But Victoria’s Corrections Commissioner Jan Shuard defended the quality of the GPS tracking bracelets for sex offenders, telling Fairfax Radio she had no concerns about the system.
“Electronic monitoring is one of a number of supervision tools or dynamic security tools that we use to gather information and monitor the whereabouts of offenders,” Ms Shuard said.
“It is not a single tool on its own. It rests alongside our staff supervision, our case management of offenders, our normal processes for accounting for people.
“It is one of many things put in place.”
She said the bracelets were locked on, but can be cut off “with some effort”.
“We went through an exhaustive process in terms of our procurement of this device, but there’s nothing available that can be put on that simply cannot come off,” she said.
“They have to be able to come off for medical reasons and other reasons, so if the offenders tamper with those we get an alert that let’s us know they’re doing that and allows us to activate a response.
“This electronic bracelet, on early Sunday morning, did exactly what we would expect it to do.”
Ms Shuard said the bracelets were the highest level of restriction able to be placed on offenders like Darling.
“Given they are community members, it is a civil scheme, they’ve completed their sentence and they are subject to these restrictions for periods of up to 15 years.”
Corella Place is a residential facility next door to the Ararat prison, the Hopkins Correctional Centre.
It is about two kilometres from the town centre.
Residents are housed in one-, two- and three-bedroom houses and have a strict curfew, but are taken on escorted trips to nearby towns and to Melbourne.
‘Community safety at risk’: Police Association
Mr Iddles was not sure how Darling cut off the bracelet and said he believed public safety was at stake.
“Obviously there will be some investigation by Corrections and maybe Victoria Police … but we will need to find that (out) so it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
“I think the community would expect that if you’re out and about with a monitoring system you’d want it to work 100 per cent of the time.
“At times the signal doesn’t go to the monitoring centre, and therefore the person isn’t monitored for a short time.
“The alarms are raised when the signal drops out, but the reality is when they go and check the prisoner’s there.
“So on this occasion when it’s cut off the alarm is raised and they go and have a look but he’s actually gone, and now there has to be a reasonable amount of resources to find him.”
Mr Iddles said Darling was not serving jail time, but is required wear a monitor because he is a serious sex offender.
“My understanding with this particular person is he’s finished his sentence and he’s living in a facility near the jail, and not required to be undergoing a sentence,” he said.
Search continues for Darling
Police are still searching for Darling, who they said had bush survival skills and was known to frequent pubs and bars.
They have told people in the Ararat area to remain vigilant around sheds and outhouses on their properties and to report anything suspicious to police.
The also said anyone who notices stolen food or clothing should contact them.
He is 176cm tall and of medium build, with both ears pierced and tattoos on his back, arms and right lower leg.
Police have warned the public not to approach him, but to call triple-0 immediately if they see him.
Author: Jan Shuard
Your one stop for gps tracking needs, contact an experienced GPS Monitoring Specialist to assist you with any GPS situation.