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Sex offenders to be electronically tagged on release

HIGH risk sex attackers are to be electronically tracked using satellites on their release from prison.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern is set to introduce electronic tagging for higher risk sex offenders and other prisoners in a pilot project in the coming months.

A GPS (Global Positioning System) which shows the location of the tag on a prisoner through a satellite, is likely to be introduced in Ireland if the project proves a success.

Mr Ahern has received another report from a Project Board led by the Probation Service "and this report is currently under consideration in the Department," a spokesperson said. "With regard to cost, detailed costings will only become known once a tender process has been completed.

"The Minister will balance the cost to the public purse against the added value for offender management generally and ultimately the benefits of public safety," she said.

Last January, Minister Ahern published a detailed document which put forward the possibility of electronic monitoring of sex offenders for the first six months after their release.

He also announced the setting up of a Project Board "to examine specific possibilities as well as the implementation of electronic monitoring more generally in this jurisdiction".

Mr Ahern received an interim report from the Project Board in June "which recommended that a pilot project be initiated in order to test EM technology in this jurisdiction and assess its value for money in the management of offenders" and has now received another report from the Board.

The Minister also said this year that new statutory powers will be given to gardai and the Probation Service to "more effectively and efficiently" monitor released sex offenders.

The Probation Service would be given the power to apply to the courts to impose new conditions on sex offenders who are to be subject to post release supervision orders.



Assessment

Standardised, evidence-based risk assessment of each offender would be carried out and shared between gardai, probation officers and the prisons while judges would also be offered a assessment of offenders to help during sentencing.

Mr Ahern said earlier this year that he was very conscious "that victims and the public generally have particular concerns about sex offenders".

The State already has legal provisions to electronicaly monitor prisoners on temporary release, but Mr Ahern said he had asked the Project Board to explore the possible use of GPS technology "to monitor higher risk sex offenders for the critical six month period when they have been released back into the community".

mlavery@herald.ie


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