Bailed suspects to be tagged in clampdown on burglaries
Suspects on bail will be subject to electronic tagging for the first time under a new law being proposed by the incoming Government.
Acting Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said gardaí would have the power to request a suspected offender wear a tag as part of their bail conditions.
The minister also signalled that the dispersal of Garda stations would be reviewed by the new Policing Authority amid "deep concerns" about rural crime. The moves come against the backdrop of spiralling burglary rates across the country, with much of the crime being attributed to repeat offenders.
Although widely used in the North, electronic tagging has operated only ever on a pilot basis in the Republic, where it has been limited to a small number of criminals out on temporary release.
Ms Fitzgerald said provisions allowing for the electronic monitoring of suspects on bail would be included in the forthcoming Bail Bill "to reduce re-offending".
She said the bill would also allow for refusal of bail for repeat serious offenders and would strengthen Garda powers to deal with breaches of bail.
Officials in the Department of Justice have been examining the possibility of extending the use of electronic tagging throughout the past year.
However, exactly how the system will work, how much it will cost and who will conduct the monitoring has yet to be disclosed.
A spokesman for the department said that while there were "significant legal and technical issues" involved, it believed the targeted use of electronic monitoring would improve compliance with bail conditions in appropriate cases.
In the North, where around 1,200 people a year are tagged, the system is operated on behalf of authorities by private security firm G4S.
The system used there since 2009 can tell whether a person on bail is complying with conditions regarding where they stay at night. It is not used to track their each and every movement, but it can tell when an ankle bracelet has been removed or damaged.
According to an Oireachtas briefing document, it costs €6.45 per day to operate the equipment used on the pilot scheme for monitoring prisoners on temporary release.
However, the manpower and IT costs of monitoring the tags have not been disclosed.
The costs of operating such systems can vary greatly from country to country. In Norway, where tagging is used for prisoners on early release, the daily cost of operating a piece of equipment and monitoring is €100.
In comparison, the system used in Belgium has a daily cost per tag of €29, covering equipment and staff. In Denmark, it costs €56 per day for equipment and supervision.
Meanwhile, Ms Fitzgerald said she accepted "the very real concerns that exist in rural communities" following Garda station closures.
Speaking in the Dáil, the acting Justice Minister said she was firmly of the belief that tackling crime was "not just about the bricks and mortar of garda stations".
However, she said concerns over the geographical distribution of stations and potential inefficiencies in Garda district boundaries would be referred for review to the new independent Policing Authority.
Ms Fitzgerald also said there had been "an overwhelming response" in terms of applications for the new Garda Armed Support Unit for Dublin.
The 55-strong unit was promised in February in the aftermath of the Regency Hotel murder and subsequent gangland feuding in the capital, but has yet to be put in place. Ms Fitzgerald said recruitment was "progressing".
She also said there was no question of any reduction in the resources or overtime available to gardaí to combat gang crime.