Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has admitted that plans to electronically tag serial offenders who are temporarily released on bail will have significant “financial implications” for the State.
The Tánaiste made the comments after the Cabinet yesterday signed off on a series of amendments to the existing bail system in a bid to tighten restrictions preventing suspects from being released back onto the streets while awaiting trial.
Under plans detailed in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, the Government is set to put in place a series of new bail measures over the coming weeks, with plans to toughen the rules for someone to be released on bail, night curfews, and potential electronic tagging.
Speaking on RTÉ radio programme Drivetime, Ms Fitzgerald said the changes are needed in order to protect the general public amid concerns that more than 10,000 crimes — including a large number which are violent — are committed by people while out on bail every year.
Asked about the costs involved, Ms Fitzgerald said while the reforms will be worthwhile, they will pose significant “financial implications” for the State.
“The costs still have to be determined, but last year, for example, the prison service tagged 50 people and the cost of that was €150,000.
“Now, this is going to be a targeted initiative, but clearly there are financial implications. With electronic monitoring there is a question of resources.
“It is part of a range of measures and supports the gardaí can use to prevent crime, but yes, it’s important we do it and, yes, there will be resource issues,” she said.
While it is unclear how many people on bail are likely to undergo electronic tagging under the new measures — which will have to be voted on by the Dáil and Seanad in the coming weeks — civil rights groups have already raised concerns about potential overuse.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties yesterday said the development could pose difficulties for people who are, in the eyes of the law, innocent until proven guilty.
Victims’ groups broadly welcomed the move from Ms Fitzgerald, saying they have been calling for the enhanced laws for a number of years and that international evidence shows electronic tagging can drastically reduce the risk of an individual reoffending while out on bail.
On average, more than 10,000 crimes are committed in Ireland by people who are awaiting trial, ranging from public order offences to assaults and threats to murder.
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