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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 17:26 GMT
Teenagers on bail to be tagged
Electronic tag
The scheme will be piloted from April
Teenagers charged with serious crimes are to be electronically tagged while on bail awaiting trial, in an effort to stop them re-offending.

Home Secretary David Blunkett told the BBC the scheme was designed "to stop thugs cocking a snook" at police and the legal system which is often forced to free them to re-offend.

The move is in response to soaring levels of street crime and robberies.

It is designed to keep 12 to 16-year-old criminals in check if the courts believe they are likely to commit further imprisonable offences on bail.

Tagging: The Facts
The first British tagging trials in 1989 failed when 34 of the 50 "guinea pigs" either re-offended or absconded while on remand.
During that scheme, one man committed 41 other crimes, another was accused of murder.
The first criminal to be tagged in 1995 trials broke his curfew twice on his first day.
No prisoner considered to be a risk to the public will be tagged
The system is expensive but reportedly cheaper than keeping people in jail

The project - expected to tag 1,800 young tearaways in its first year - is also being introduced to restore confidence in the justice system, which magistrates believe is failing to stop young troublemakers appearing before them time after time.

Courts will have the power to impose a curfew order which will be monitored by a security company via an electronic tag.

The plans will also free up places in remand centres, which in some parts of the country are in short supply.

Six areas will pilot the scheme from April, before it is extended to the whole of England and Wales in June.

Mr Blunkett told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: "We are talking about thugs who are creating havoc in the local community, repeat offending over and over again.

'Imaginative'

"Even if the police catch them and the courts take action, they are invariably back on the streets again and the kids are laughing at the police, saying 'you can't catch me'.

"They are cocking a snook at the whole system and people are sick and tired of them being put back on the streets, unsupervised, untagged, insecure and carrying on what they were doing before."

Prison interior
Numbers in jail are at a record high

He said the eventual plan was to introduce proper secure remand accommodation but it was an expensive and long-term solution.

"So, I want to combine imaginative ways of keeping people out of secure accommodation or prison but keeping the community safe by ensuring they can't re-offend," he added.

Mr Blunkett recently extended the "home detention curfew" tagging scheme for adult prisoners to help clear thousands of prison places.

But a leaked report from the Prison Service showed governors and probation officers were not using their early release powers because they feared something would go wrong.

Details of the tagging scheme were announced just a day after a school in Bradford confirmed it was considering using anti-social behaviour orders to tackle discipline - which could mean children as young as 10 receiving custodial sentences.

The director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, Frances Crook, said Mr Blunkett should not "play politics with the lives of vulnerable children".

"These are children who have complex problems, usually emanating from the home, and locking them up inside an abusive home could seriously endanger them," she said.

Paul Cavadino, chief executive of crime reduction charity Nacro, said money would be targeted better elsewhere.

"For most young defendants, bail support and supervision programmes are more likely to keep them out of trouble while awaiting trial," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"The government wants to keep offenders of all ages out of jail"
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Home Secretary David Blunkett faces accusations that this is a step too far'"
 VOTE RESULTS
Should children on bail be tagged?

Yes
 91.54% 

No
 8.46% 

3465 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


Is electronic tagging a viable alternative to prison?
The tagging solution

See also:

07 Jan 00 | e-cyclopedia
Electronic tagging: A virtual prison?
23 Aug 01 | UK
Youth justice: How it works
20 Feb 02 | Scotland
Helping hand for young offenders
25 Feb 02 | Education
Special orders curbing pupils
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