'Spy in the sky' tracks persistent offenders

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The Independent Online

Criminals who commit sexual crimes or domestic violence as well as persistent offenderswill be tracked by "spy in the sky" satellites in a crime crackdown launched this week.

Criminals who commit sexual crimes or domestic violence as well as persistent offenderswill be tracked by "spy in the sky" satellites in a crime crackdown launched this week.

Tony Blair will use the announcement to reassure voters in the run-up to the next election that Labour will protect vulnerable groups such as children and victims of domestic violence.

Under the scheme, paedophiles and rapists as well as habitual burglars will be fitted with special electronic ankle tags and monitored 24 hours a day. It will apply to persistent criminals released early from jail under the existing Home Detention Curfew scheme as well as to offenders given community sentences such as probation orders.

Paul Goggins, the Home Office minister, will launch the new measure, dubbed "a prison without walls", in the latest government attempt to get tough on law and order. A pilot scheme has already been carried out with satellite tagging in the North-east and this wider trial is expected to be carried out countrywide.

The controversial new technology is already used in America and uses a satellite global positioning system (GPS) to pinpoint the location of offenders within three metres. It operates along similar lines as GPS mapping in a car and could be used, for example, to check if a burglar released on probation was at the scene of a break-in.

The measures to harness technology in the fight against crime were outlined by David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, in his five-year plan to combat crime in which he said there were 5,000 criminals responsible for one in 10 of all reported crimes. Satellite tracking is a key part of this plan to cut crime by 15 per cent and would also allow him to combat the problem of overcrowding in Britain's jails.

He is also keen to introduce voluntary lie detector tests for sex offenders to keep track of their contact with children. A pilot scheme with 33 sex offenders revealed that a third admitted having unsupervised contact in breach of conditions.