New bill will see bailed suspects electronically tagged and tracked

The proposal is one of a number of changes Frances Fitzgerald is hoping to introduce to limit the number of offences committed while on bail

New bill will see bailed suspects electronically tagged and tracked

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The Tánaiste has brought a new bill to cabinet which would allow people to be electronically tagged and tracked while they await trial.

The proposal is one of a number of changes Frances Fitzgerald is hoping to introduce in a bid to limit the risk of suspects reoffending while on bail.

The proposals would also give the court more powers to refuse bail where there is a “pattern of persistent reoffending” or a likelihood of danger to the public where bail is granted.

Electronic tagging as a condition of bail was first introduced in 2007 - however it has not been implemented due to concerns its overuse could lead to cost and operational difficulties.

Under the new proposals, tags would only be used where the prosecution makes a specific application to the courts - something Minister Fitzgerald hopes will make the practice more manageable and controllable for authorities.

Speaking on her way into the cabinet meeting this morning, Ms Fitzgerald said she expects the tags to be used regularly once the law is enacted:

The bill is likely to lead to concerns over privacy rights as suspects - who are considered innocent until proven guilty - could face a situation where they are refused bail unless they agree to wear a tag.

The executive director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Liam Herrick said the evidence on whether the tags actually prevent crime is mixed, and he has concerns about their use here.

“The information that one gleans from tagging only relates to the location of an individual rather than their behaviour so its capacity to prevent crime is perhaps overstated sometimes,” he said.

He said there is a risk there will be a “net widening effect” with the technology used on people who would have been unlikely to face prison.

“The key issue with regard to technologies such as electronic tagging is that it is at its greatest utility when it is an alternative to prison or detention,” he said.

He said if the practice were to be overused, there would be no benefit in terms of reducing cost while, “adding a new layer of punishment to the criminal justice system.”

A working group is being established to examine how a tagging system could be introduced without threatening privacy rights or leading to spiralling costs for the state.

Minister Fitzgerald said the new bill will provide greater security to victims:

Other measures included in the bill include the imposition of driving bans as a condition of bail, night time curfews and a requirement for judges to provide adequate reasons for the granting of bail.

Figures released by the Department of Justice last year revealed that 10,693 crimes were committed by offenders who were on bail for other offences in 2014.

The figures included six homicides, nine sexual offences and 329 murder attempts and other violent offences.