Ahern to get UK's advice on tagging of prisoners
JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern will meet his British counterparts today as prison officials here prepare to launch a pilot electronic-tagging scheme next month.
Up to 20 prisoners -- including notorious murderer and rapist Geoffrey Evans -- have been shortlisted to take part in the project.
Long-serving killer Evans (67) has been chosen for the list, even though he has been in a coma since December 2008.
The project will involve prisoners from several jails around the country and tenders for the state-of-the-art GPS technology have been received by the Prison Service and are currently being studied by the officials.
One senior official confirmed last night that preparations for the pilot were on target to begin by next month's deadline.
But Mr Ahern is anxious to seek views from Britain, where tagging has been in operation for several years, with mixed views of its success rate.
Mr Ahern will hold separate meetings in London today with Home Secretary Theresa May, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke and Immigration Minister Damian Green.
This is his first opportunity to hold talks with the criminal justice ministers since the new Conservative-Lib Dem coalition took power.
The pilot tagging project is likely to last until the end of the year when an evaluation will be carried out before a decision is made on a major extension of the programme.
The minister and his senior advisers have been looking at the issue for some time and examining schemes in other countries.
He also held discussions recently on tagging with new Northern Ireland justice minister David Ford.
The pilot will initially focus on temporary-release prisoners but eventually could be extended to include tagging as part of post-release supervision.
Evans and his accomplice, John Shaw, were convicted of the murder, rape and torture of two young women in Wicklow and Galway in 1975.
They were both sentenced to life imprisonment in 1978. They are among the longest-serving prisoners in the State.
Evans fell into a coma when he suffered a stroke while undergoing heart surgery.
Six prison guards have operated a daily guard at his bedside round the clock for the past 18 months, costing the State €1.35m so far.
Mr Ahern said last night he would discuss the British experiences with justice minister Ken Clarke and their talks would also cover approaches to dealing with prison accommodation, which was a big issue in both jurisdictions.
Meanwhile Mr Ahern's meeting with Ms May will focus on developments at European level, including plans to boost co-operation between member states in tackling crime and terrorism.
Mr Ahern also intends to brief her on the new legislation he published on Friday to deal with head shops and substance abuse.
The talks with Mr Green will range over a number of immigration issues.
Mr Ahern said he believed the three meetings today were important because they provided him with an early opportunity to discuss issues with the new British government and continue high levels of co-operation.