313. Deputy Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Justice and Equality her views on the electronic tagging of offenders; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6529/16]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Experience in other jurisdictions has shown that electronic monitoring has significant limitations and there are concerns about the operational effectiveness of untargeted electronic monitoring. However it does have potential benefits in certain circumstances.
Electronic monitoring is mainly used by the Irish Prison Service to monitor prisoners who have been granted temporary release from prison for various reasons such as to attend as hospital inpatients. It thus allows for a reduction in staffing costs for hospital escorts.
The question of electronic monitoring of convicted sex offenders was reviewed in detail in the context of the Department's discussion paper and public consultation on the Management of Sex Offenders. Two areas were identified where electronic monitoring might be of benefit: (i) monitoring the crucial transition post-release period where an offender leaves custody and is adjusting to living in the community to ensure positive habits are established and to identify potential risks; and (ii) monitoring high-risk offenders to verify compliance with a sex offender order. Provisions that will allow electronic monitoring to be ordered by a court for a maximum period of six months, where the court considers it necessary that the offender's movements are monitored to protect the public from serious harm, have been approved by the Government and will be included in the Sex Offenders (Amendment) Bill which is currently being drafted.
It is recognised that the targeted use of electronic monitoring has the potential to be effective as a means of enhancing compliance with bail conditions in appropriate cases. With this in mind, it is intended to bring forward streamlined proposals for such monitoring in the Bail Bill which is currently being drafted. The Bill will provide that electronic monitoring may be imposed as a bail condition if the prosecution applies to the court for this condition. This will facilitate the focused use of electronic monitoring for persons on bail. The introduction of an electronic monitoring system for bail purposes will require a separate tendering process and involve the Garda Síochána.