Shoplifter first to undergo tagging

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The Independent Online
After a month of deliberation the judiciary has managed to select the first criminal to be fitted with the Home Office's newest deterrent - the electronic tag.

The man chosen is Clive Barratt, 29, a shoplifter who was also caught with 98p worth of cannabis, and has previously breached a 24-hour curfew.

The Home Office is probably breathing a sigh of relief as the scheme, in which offenders are electronically monitored and given curfews, has lurched from one disaster to another.

After a series of delays magistrates appeared to be extremely reluctant to issue the new punishment.

However this changed yesterday when magistrates at King's Lynn, Norfolk, made a tagging order after Barratt admitted offences including shoplifting and failing to surrender to custody.

He is now banned from leaving his home in King's Lynn between 8am and 8pm daily until the end of October. From Monday, if he breaks the curfew, an electronic tag attached to his wrist will alert police.

Speaking after yesterday's hearing Barratt said: "It is just better than prison.

''If I am on a curfew I can be back with my family and make a fresh start."

The tagging trial began in Manchester and Norfolk at the beginning of the month and is due for introduction in Reading.

It was supposed to have started eight months ago but was initially delayed because of mounting costs.

Two months ago there was a further delay after the tags failed during a pre-test days before it was due to be launched.

The current nine-month trial, costing about pounds 1.4m, involves fitting devices to offenders' wrists or ankles.

The tag sends a signal down a telephone line and if the offender leaves the house during the curfew the circuit is broken and a warning sounds at the monitoring centre.