Senior garda calls for surgical tagging for sex offenders


Surgically implanted electronic tags indicating changes in heartbeat and blood pressure could be used to monitor convicted sex offenders released into the community, according to the president of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI).

Speaking at the association's 25th anniversary conference, Mr Joe Dirwan told delegates this evening that it was a "pity" that sophisticated technologies such as electronic tagging for a wide range offences were not being used.

He said police forces in other parts of the world were successfully using devices such as electronic tagging to monitor sex offenders as well as those on early release from custody or on bail.

He said tagging on the ankle or wrist could also provide "an affordable alternative to overcrowded prisons and an opportunity to integrate minor criminals, who have not been convicted of crimes of violence, back into society." Satellite global positioning systems could monitor the movement of offenders and alert gardaí to any breaches of release terms such as movement outside or into a defined area.

Most controversially, Mr Dirwan suggested paedophiles and sex offenders could have surgically implanted electronic tags. "This could ensure that sexual offenders are kept away from schools and playgrounds. Recent developments include surgically implanted tags that can measure changes in the heartbeat and blood pressure of paedophiles, alerting the gardai when and to where an attack is imminent", he said.

He said a sex offenders register would only account for where an offender lives but tagging would indicate their location "at all times".

Speaking in the presence of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr McDowell, Mr Dirwan also hit out at the pay increases provided for in benchmarking, describing the 6 per cent increase for his members as "measly" in light of their increased duties.

He warned that inspectors and sergeants were being asked to take on "intolerable levels" of work under reorganisation plans that could lead to the closure of Garda stations and fewer gardai on the streets. "There is little doubt that it is the public who will suffer and who will be exposed to greater danger and a vastly reduced level of protection."

The recent crime wave in Limerick is a "a mirror image of what is going on all around the country", he said, adding that the publicity showed up a shortage of garda resources nationwide.

He criticised the Government's failure to honour its election promise of 2,000 new gardai. "If they were needed at the time of the promise, they are more urgently needed now," he said.

Mr Dirwan also singled out some judges for not supporting the gardai's fight against drugs through appropriate sentences.

"It is ironic that gardai are being asked to accept individual performance management. Why does this principle not extend to the other elements of the criminal justice system - the courts and the judges? By any performance indicator, judges who do not send convicted drug dealers to jail are hugely underperforming

He said drugs are becoming increasingly available and cheaper. "If nothing is done, the situation in a few years will be frightening," he warned.

He also called for stricter licensing laws and better education for young people to address teh growing problem of binge drinking among young people.