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Pressure to extend prisoner tagging

THE cost and viability of electronic tagging is to be considered when a trial run on selected prisoners ends at Christmas.

A pilot project of tagging was introduced in August, with 10 prisoners specially selected upon their release.

But with the test phase due to end at Christmas, campaigners are now demanding that Justice Minister Dermot Ahern extend the programme. In particular there have been calls for sex offenders such as Larry Murphy to be electronically monitored for a period after their release from prison.

"I think in relation to certain offences, including sexual offenders who are granted early release, certainly a condition of it, for a portion but not necessarily all, a condition available should be electronic tagging," said Fine Gael's Alan Shatter.

That possibility now seems much closer than before, as Justice Minister Dermot Ahern says he is now actively pursuing the idea.

"I intend to explore further the possibility of making legislative provision for the use of Electronic Monitoring in specific circumstances. This consideration has now begun," he said.

The test phase for tagging saw a small number of inmates monitored using Global Positioning System (GPS) Electronic Monitoring.