Scottish criminals ‘could be barred from entire cities’

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Entire cities could become out-of-bounds for some criminals in Scotland under new laws which will allow police to monitor offenders with GPS tracking technology for the first time.

Criminals would be tracked 24 hours a day in real time through sophisticated electronic ankle tags under legislation set to be placed before MSPs at the Scottish Parliament.

Criminals could be barred from entering Scotland's cities such as Aberdeen.

Criminals could be barred from entering Scotland's cities such as Aberdeen.

The plans would also allow authorities to set up “exclusion zones” which could be tailored for specific criminals, barring them from entering certain streets, neighbourhoods or even cities.

Monitoring stations would be alerted if an offender entered or approached such a zone, allowing them to react immediately and offering reassurance to victims of crimes such as domestic violence.

The changes are set to come about if the Management of Offenders Bill, which was introduced at Holyrood yesterday by Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, is passed by MSPs. Currently, electronic tags relying on radio frequency technology are used to ensure offenders stay within their own home for certain periods of time.

But GPS technology will allow authorities to prevent the tagged person from entering specific locations such as the homes of victims or witnesses – or areas where criminal associates gather.

In its consultation on the bill, the Scottish Government said GPS exclusion zones could be tailored in size, “from a house, to specific street patterns, to a neighbourhood, to a whole city”.

“Inclusion zones” could also be created to prevent an offender from leaving an area, while in certain cases prisoners could be required to wear monitoring devices which can tell they have taken drugs or alcohol.

In January the private security firm G4S secured a two-year extension to its existing contract for the electronic monitoring of Scottish prisoners, which now expires in March, 2020.