SATELLITE technology would be used to track sex offenders under Scottish Government plans to crack down on the most predatory and dangerous criminals.
A consultation launched tomorrow will also propose using the GPS tags to track domestic abuse and persistent offenders, and alcohol bracelets for people who commit crimes while drunk.
While many sex offenders, and other criminals, are already tagged, the move would see a major increase in how much of their movement is monitored.
Current radio frequency tags go off if someone leaves a certain area, such as their home, or goes somewhere they should not go within set times.
Using satellite technology and Google maps, police will be able to monitor a sex offender at all times, wherever they go. They will be able to observe patterns of movement to help build intelligence.
Writing in today’s Scotland on Sunday, justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “Satellite tracking can enable authorities to pinpoint an offender’s exact location in real time, which has the potential to greatly assist how they are monitored. It also allows them to set up specific exclusion zones, preventing offenders from entering potential risk areas like high streets, schools and playgrounds.”
Alcohol bracelets have already been used in the US and are another way of showing whether a person has been drinking, by testing the sweat coming from the skin’s pores.
Both would be available to judges and sheriffs as sentencing options, or as a way of enforcing licence conditions.
Last month, it emerged there were ten murders and eight sexual offences committed by people released from prison on licence, in Scotland, in 2012-13.
Despite this, MacAskill insisted Scotland’s monitoring of criminals, including sex offenders, is already “among the most stringent anywhere”.
Electronic monitoring is “already an important tool for managing offenders in the community” but there are “operational and ethical issues which need to be taken into consideration”, he added.
“While satellite tracking alone cannot provide a magic solution to the complex issues faced by those dealing with offenders, it does have the potential to improve how they are monitored and managed, for the benefit of the public.
“It is important to stress that we are not proposing using the new technology to allow offenders who would currently be sent to jail to be in the community, but to improve monitoring of offenders who would already be given community sentences or be out on licence.” Police have already been involved in talks on tagging.
Detective Chief Superintendent Gill Imery, head of public protection for Police Scotland, said: “We keep our processes and procedures under constant review and are in regular discussion with the Scottish Government and our other partners in relation to innovation in offender management such as electronic tracking.”
Chief Superintendent David O’Connor, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (Asps), added: “I’ve absolutely no doubt that as technology progresses it has the potential to ensure that these types of offenders are tracked, their movements are made available to various services and, ultimately, that will lead to a reduction in offending.”
The proposals were also welcomed across the political spectrum.
Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: “We welcome the move, but it doesn’t mask the problems that currently exist with the sex offenders’ register.”
Alison McInnes MSP, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman, said: “Satellite tracking will mean offenders can be out repairing the damage they have caused to the community rather than sitting in a prison cell. It keeps people safe.”
Graeme Pearson MSP, Scottish Labour’s justice spokesman, added: “We also need a reassurance that while monitoring offenders in the community is an important tool available to judges in sentencing, it is not seen as a cheap alternative to prison.”