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Scotland Looks to GPS Tracking for High Risk Sex Offenders

After a disturbing turn of events, Scotland is considering following in Australia’s footsteps in attaching GPS tracking devices to its high risk sex offenders. Only a few days after being released from prison, Ryan Yates attempted to murder a grandmother in order to victimize her young grandchildren. Fortunately, the 60-year-old woman was able to fend off Yates while the children escaped, despite being stabbed by the attacker. The event has cast a critical eye on the police and other public bodies, responsible for monitoring Yates after his release from prison.

“Scotland has one of the most robust systems for managing sex offenders anywhere in the world and the monitoring of such offenders is now tougher than ever before. However, if processes can be improved and strengthened further, our law enforcement agencies and the Scottish Government will take action, which is why we brought in the new disclosure scheme allowing parents the right to know if a convicted sex offender is living in their community,” explained Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

“The Scottish Government is determined to take every opportunity of building on and strengthening the steps already taken to protect our communities from sex offenders,” MacAskill concluded. Yates was taken back to jail and sentenced for a minimum of ten years. GPS tracking devices aren’t fail-proof, but they do allow probation officers to have a better idea of the movements and whereabouts of a released convict. Geofences, or boundaries, can be set around schools and other places children populate to alert police if a high-risk offender is nearby.

“As is highlighted within the report, responsibility for what occurred on October 14, 2009, rests with the offender and only the offender. Clearly each of the members of the group has a responsibility to ensure that the public is protected as much as is possible. However, it is simply not possible to monitor an individual’s movements at all times, particularly in cases such as this where an offender is determined to commit further crimes after being released back into the community,” explained Tom Cowan, Northern Community Justice Authority.

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West Australia To Track Sex Offenders with GPS

The government of West Australia has announced plans to follow Queensland in attaching GPS tracking devices to its sex offenders. Under this plan, sex offenders would be released into the community with anklets or bracelets equipped with GPS tracking technology. The tracking devices will monitor the individual’s movements, and can send alerts when leaving or entering specified zones. The policy eases the strain on over-crowded prison systems, and can hopefully act as a deterrent for repeat offenses. However, the announcement was met with some concern at the idea of releasing known sex offenders back into the community.

“Yes, it’s possible that it could increase the number of dangerous sex offenders that are released,” Terry Redman, WA Corrective Services Minister, told the Herald Sun. “But it’s also possible that we get a higher level of breach and hence people going back to the Supreme Court to face judgments about going back into prison … We really need to monitor how this goes.” The technology alerts the Corrective Services Department if the wearer tampers with or removes the device, or goes near a school or a victim’s home.

“Once we have this in place for dangerous sex offenders … I think there’s a lot of scope for it to be used for other people within that corrective services system that are a concern to the community,” Redman said. “We have women in Bandyup Women’s Prison now who have significant family responsibilities outside … Things like this GPS tracking, we may be able to have them maintaining links with their families where they’re not a risk to the community.”

Queensland has been tracking it’s sex offenders successfully for about a year. “Those states have clearly seen the benefit of that,” Redman explained. “Like all technology is never 100 percent perfect, it enhances significantly our capacity to monitor these people within our community.” He added that the department would need to wait for legislation to pass before any of West Australia’s offenders could be tracked. He expects legislation and tracking devices to be equipped in the next year.