Move to revive tagging scheme for hooligans

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The Independent Online
An attempt to breathe new life into the long-standing and problem-dogged idea of electronic tagging is being made by ministers as a high profile means of clamping down on young hooligans who terrorise town centres and local neighbourhoods.

The Downing Street Policy Unit and the Home Office are drawing up new manifesto plans to use electronic tags as a means of enforcing curfew orders on young offenders and prevent them forming into disruptive gangs and roaming the streets uncontrolled.

The latest plans to extend electronic tagging being used in pilot schemes in Reading, Norfolk and Manchester follows figures showing that the vast majority of the 13,000 people convicted under the 1986 Public Order Act in 1994 for disorderly behaviour were given a fine or a conditional discharge. A further offenders 9,200 were cautioned.

The move is seen as being in tune with John Major's speech to the Conservative Central Council in March when he said: "We should not have to tolerate loutish behaviour. People's rights to quiet and privacy should be respected. Simple obvious rules-on the roads, in the parks and on public transport- should be followed. To some these things may seem unimportant compared with major crimes, but they cause distress to many people in their daily lives."

The idea would be that gangs who go on the rampage, whether on council estates or in town centres, would be curbed by encouraging the courts to impose curfew orders which would then be enforced by making the offenders wear an electronic anklet.

If the tag is removed, or the wearer strays from his home during the period of curfew, it would be registered at a police monitoring centre.

The notion of tagging - which has operated in some US states such as Tennessee - on a national scale was vigorously promoted in the 1987- 92 parliament by John Patten, then a Home Office minister. But although it was politically attractive it ran into considerable practical and technological difficulties and its use has so far largely been confined to the three pilot schemes.

Neverthless the attempt to revitalise the idea by Norman Blackwell, the head of the Downing Street policy unit, is said to have the enthusiastic backing of both John Major and Michael Howard, the Home Secretary.