Crime suspects could soon get electronic tags

Crime suspects could soon get electronic tags

Government looking into introducing monitoring devices

Electronic tagging allows suspects to be released pending trial.

Electronic tagging allows suspects to be released pending trial.

The government is studying the possibility of introducing electronic tagging to make it easier to grant bail to suspects of serious crimes, The Sunday Times of Malta has learnt.

A source close to the government said that this was one of the reforms in reformative justice the government was considering favourably in its efforts to continue improving the justice system and bringing it in line with other EU countries. 

Electronic tagging is one of the measures used in several European countries allowing suspects to be released from preventive custody pending their trial. This involves an electronic tag being fitted to a person’s ankle.

The issue was raised recently by Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, who in one of her first judgments, argued that it was time for the introduction of electronic monitoring of persons on bail.

Madam Justice Scerri Herrera was deciding on a request for bail made by lawyers acting for Mustafa Abu Seadah, who stands accused of raping a Maltese woman whom he had lured to his house.

The judge observed that the only conditions the court could impose that would have some effect on the man were curfews, signing a bail book, imposing a personal guarantee and taking financial deposits.

“The time has come for the introduction in Malta of that which has been used for many years in other countries around the world, what is known as electronic monitoring,” she said, pointing out the measure had been proposed as far back as 2012 by criminal lawyer Franco Debono, at the time an MP.

It is a viable and a legally proportionate measure

Were this system to exist in Malta, said the court, the State would be in a better position to monitor people accused of criminal offences who had been given bail.

Lawyers contacted by The Sunday Times of Malta said the need for electronic tagging had long been felt and Malta was “lagging far behind” in such reformative technologies.

“The only safeguards the court can impose at the moment are conditions of signing the bail book and financial restrictions, so the court is usually not willing to take the risk and turns down bail requests,” said one lawyer, who preferred not to be named.

“If you were to give weight to the notion of innocent until proven guilty, bail should be the rule, not the exception.”.

Another lawyer argued that Malta only had one prison and that the majority of people in jail were not serving time for a crime they had committed but were merely waiting in jail until the time came for their case to be heard.

“It is well known that justice takes its time in Malta, so it is unacceptable for anyone to remain in jail just because we have a slow judicial system. Electronic tagging will go a long way towards respecting the notion of innocent until proven guilty,” she said.

Lawyer Stefano Filletti, who represented Mr Abu Seadah in his bail application before Madam Justice Scerri Herrera, said electronic tagging was a system that offered any judge or magistrate more peace of mind when granting bail.

“It is a viable and a legally proportionate measure. The system will be safer and the monitoring more effective. There have been constitutional cases across Europe, but these have all been quashed since such a system was deemed to be a proportionate exercise in granting bail to a suspect of a serious crime,” Dr Filletti said.

He argued that though it is seen as highly invasive, it is deemed proportionate considering the other option is remanding the person in custody. “This is an acceptable midway and it’s been tried and tested at European Court of Human Rights level,” he said.

Dr Filletti said legislation would determine what serious crimes electronic tagging could cover: “There has to be a specific law which either lists the crimes or lays the parameters of the punishments of the crime allegedly committed.”

Comments not loading? We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox with javascript turned on.
Comments powered by Disqus