The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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TMID Editorial: Electronic tagging

Tuesday, 27 February 2024, 10:32 Last update: about 3 months ago

A Bill introducing electronic tagging is expected to be discussed in Parliament in the coming weeks, The Malta Independent on Sunday revealed.

The long-proposed ‘Electric Monitoring Bill,’ has been on its first reading in Parliament since 2021. It would allow, in select circumstances, for the court to order electronic tagging. This would reduce pressure on the prison system, and could also be a good form of rehabilitation for lesser crimes. 

Tagging will apply in cases where a prison sentence of not more than a year is handed down, as well as when a restraining order is issued, or when the court issues a temporary protection order in cases of domestic violence. 

Electronic tagging is effectively used in foreign jurisdictions, and there is no reason to think it cannot work here in Malta. 

It would mean that the police would be better able to keep track of such people, it would also mean that people on lesser crimes could be taught a lesson without having to go to prison, which itself can be traumatic. 

It could also mean more safety for victims of domestic violence.

The Bill also provides for tagging in cases when people are granted prison leave, or for people out on parole. The introduction of this bill makes sense. A question that should be asked is whether the bill should be expanded. To this newsroom’s understanding, it would not be used for people out on police bail. But doing so could reduce risk of people on bail leaving the country. Indeed a judge had even made such a call.

There have been instances where people have vanished while out on bail. The case of Jomic Calleja Maatouk comes to mind. He had been found guilty and given a five year effective imprisonment sentence and made to forfeit €51,000 in bail bonds, Europol’s most wanted list reads. “Jomic Calleja Maatouk appealed this judgement and has since not abided by the bail conditions he was to adhere to,” it reads, going on to add that he is believed to have absconded from the country. The bill, were it in effect, would not have covered such a situation, and at least part of the debate should also focus on whether the bill should be widened to help prevent such situations in the future.

At the same time, electronic tagging should not be used in all circumstances. For example, when a person is accused of a serious crime and is held in custody instead of not being allowed on bail, that is often times done for good reason, such as preventing possible contact with witnesses. In such situations, tagging might not be a viable option as, while being able to track movements, one can easily use many other forms of communication when not being held in custody.

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