Tagging queried after man dies

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The death of a young man on the Government's controversial "tagging" scheme for persistent offenders has prompted new concerns over the system.

Mark Woods, 28, from Cromer, in Norfolk, was found dead in his flat last weekend. He had been on the programme for just over a month.

Probation officers said last night that the scheme, which uses an electronic device to deter the wearer from leaving home, was often inappropriate.

Mr Woods, who lived alone and was put on what is officially known as the "electronic monitoring" scheme for six months, was described by welfare staff as "emotionally unstable".

Tagging was introduced by Michael Howard, then home secretary, in July 1995 and adopted by his successor, Jack Straw.

This month the scheme will be doubled in size. It currently exists in three pilot areas, Norfolk, Reading and Greater Manchester, and has involved about 450 offenders. In the new year it will be extended to include fine defaulters and those in breach of bail conditions.

Mr Woods had no criminal record until September last year when he was convicted of theft and handling stolen goods. He was returned to court in August charged with breaching his community service order and committing wilful damage worth pounds 2,500. He was tagged as part of a dusk-to-dawn curfew order.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said: "The inquest into this tragic death must consider whether it was suitable to use tagging in any case, but particularly if there is evidence of emotional instability and social isolation."

n A hi-tech tagging device for city centres will reunite lost children with their parents and tourists with friends by using a network of "smart" bus shelters.

The electronic bracelets, known as tracelets, have been developed by bus shelter contractor Adshel, and will enable anyone wearing one to be traced to a specific spot in the city.