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Electronic monitoring or ‘tagging’ of people
The Administration of Justice (Electronic Monitoring) Act was assented to on July 3, 2012. It comes into force on a date to be set by the President. The act provides for the implementation of a system for electronic monitoring in Trinidad and Tobago. Electronic monitoring or “tagging” is the use of electronic or telecommunications systems to assist in the supervision of people charged with or convicted of certain offences.
It involves attaching a device to an individual which allows that person’s whereabouts to be monitored. His or her location or position is reported back to a monitoring centre which can take immediate action if there is a breach. The act provides for electronic monitoring to be imposed on an individual as:
• An alternative to a sentence of imprisonment;
• A condition of bail, pardon or early release;
• A condition of a protection order.
Alternative sentencing option
For certain offences, the court may impose electronic monitoring instead of any sentence of imprisonment that could have been imposed. It can also require that a person be monitored for part of a sentence. For example, a person convicted of simple robbery may be sentenced to two years of electronic monitoring instead of two years’ imprisonment.
However, electronic monitoring cannot be imposed for certain offences. These include murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, drug trafficking or unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.
Condition of bail, pardon or early release
The court may also impose monitoring as a condition of bail for someone who is charged with an offence and awaiting trial. The President, exercising his power of pardon under the Constitution, may also require that a person be tagged as one of the conditions of the pardon. The act also provides for using electronic monitoring as a form of early release from detention.
Condition of a protection order
Another main provision of the act is the use of electronic monitoring as a condition of a protection order granted under the Domestic Violence Act. By doing this, the act seeks to strengthen the protection given to victims of domestic violence by providing more effective monitoring and supervision of domestic abusers.
Terms of monitoring
It is important to note that except in the case of protection orders, electronic monitoring is voluntary. A person must give his or her consent to be monitored. The court may also require that an individual either pay the total or partial cost of the use of the device. Where monitoring is imposed, the period of time the device is to be worn must be stated.
The order can require the monitored person to be in a particular place for such period in each day or week as may be specified, or that the person not be in such place at such time or for the specified period. The court may also impose any other terms it considers necessary. Once a breach occurs, the act provides for the offender to be arrested immediately and brought before the court. A person who deliberately removes a device or breaches any condition of an order is liable to a fine of $100,000 and two years’ imprisonment.
This column is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem you should consult a legal adviser.
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