I move amendment No. 6:
In page 5, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:
“5. Section 6B of the Act of 1997 is amended by the insertion of the following subsections after subsection (1):
“(1A) In imposing the conditions in subparagraphs (i) to (iii) of section 6B the Court shall have regard to the following:
(a) that the type and modalities of tagging are proportionate to the offences alleged in terms of duration and intrusiveness;
(b) the age, disability or other relevant personal circumstances of the person upon whom the conditions are imposed;
(c) that the person upon whom the conditions are imposed shall not be confined solely to a place of residence for so long as those conditions are imposed.
(1B) All data gathered as result of the imposition of the conditions in subparagraphs (i) to (iii) of section 6B shall be gathered, stored and processed in compliance with the Data Protection Acts and shall not be used for any purpose other than the following:
(a) monitoring of compliance with conditions imposed under subparagraphs (i) and (iv) of section 6(1)(b) while those conditions are imposed;
(b) implementing the relevant provisions of section 6C.”.”.
I will speak to these amendments briefly. Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 relate to electronic monitoring. The Bill amends section 6B such that the imposition of electronic monitoring can be at the behest of the prosecutor. Under the Bill, electronic monitoring may be imposed on individuals charged with serious offences and those appealing sentences of imprisonment imposed by the District Court. What these amendments seek to do is put in place a few rules, guidelines or safeguards - call them what you will - in respect of the use of electronic monitoring. I accept that electronic monitoring can be a useful tool in the criminal justice system. We know that in countries such Denmark, for example, 60% of all custodial sentences under six months are converted to electronic monitoring and intense supervision. In Belgium, any prison sentence of less that three years is automatically commuted to electronic tagging. This is a mechanism that is used. However, we have to be careful when making electronic monitoring a condition of bail that the necessary safeguards are in place. That is the aim behind these amendments. They are trying to beef up the safeguards.
Electronic monitoring applies in two scenarios, namely, in respect of the commission of a serious offence or for people appealing prison sentences handed down by the District Court. I think we have to tighten up matters in respect of the duration. If we do not, delays in the system could mean people being tagged for a long time. We have to take into account, as the amendment does, the person's age, disability and other relevant personal circumstances when electronic monitoring is being imposed. We do not want somebody effectively imprisoned in their own home with impacts on mental health, etc., particularly if the person is vulnerable, has addiction problems or whatever.
One of the key issues highlighted in these amendments is data protection. I am sure the Minister will say that the data is protected and that there is nothing to worry about. However, I am of the view that we need explicit safeguards in this Bill involving the data that will be collected through monitoring. We know that data is big business. We have to make specific provision for that in the Bill. This data is essentially being collected and monitored without somebody's willing consent. It leaves the door open for that information, and the entire activity of monitoring, to be profited from.
The goal of the amendments is that any monitoring of tagging should be done by the State or by a not-for-profit company. Monitoring should not be something which people might profit from. I am trying to leave no gaps in that. In Germany, there is a state agency that monitors this area. That agency includes social workers and support staff. That is the direction in which it is going. If we are moving towards a system whereby we are using electronic monitoring a lot more, then the protections to which I refer should be put in place.
If the alarm on the monitor were to go off, it is not the case that the Garda would be called immediately. A support staff member, a social worker, could be called to assist the person. If we were to have such a system, it is much more likely that the conditions would not be breached and it would help the person concerned to avoid a custodial sentence and address his or her offending in the community in which he or she lives. We do not want to have a scenario like the one in parts of England in which police officers are on patrol accompanied by a G4S security van. The purpose of the amendments is to eliminate that use. They would provide safeguards in the use of electronic monitoring.