Offenders could be tracked by satellite, says Blunkett

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Satellite tracking devices and lie detectors could be used to keep tabs on sex offenders and other criminals, Home Secretary David Blunkett said today.

Satellite tracking devices and lie detectors could be used to keep tabs on sex offenders and other criminals, Home Secretary David Blunkett said today.

He said the measures were "a way of ensuring we keep tabs on people and in a way we can have a prison without bars".

Mr Blunkett wants police and probation officers to use satellite-tracking for convicts released on licence and offenders given community sentences.

And he plans to allow them to use lie detectors to make sure sex offenders are keeping to the conditions of their release.

He also wants to beef up a new database which allows officers to share information on violent and sex offenders.

The use of satellite tracking to keep tabs on offenders released from jail has already been tested in a pilot scheme in the North East which is said to have worked well.

Both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats broadly welcomed the plans, which would apply only in England and Wales.

Mr Blunkett told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I don't think any of these things are a panacea. I think they are tools in the toolkit, if you like.

"I think satellite tracking as part of the new supervision procedures that we laid out in the Criminal Justice and Sentencing Act would be a great safeguard, not just for sex offenders but for those repeat and prolific offenders which make our lives a misery, where serious crime is being committed.

"But we can also use satellite tracking for very minor offences where we are worried about people being on community sentences but where our jails would simply be filled up in an unnecessary fashion.

"So there is a two-ender on this one - both ends of the book, if you like - where we can use imaginative electronic means that did not exist before.

"We can try lie detectors in terms of the monitoring of sex offenders and we can link that with bringing together the sex offenders register and the violent offenders register so that we have a national computer database."

Later, arriving for a visit to a police training centre in Sheffield ahead of Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Home Secretary said: "We are all a bit sceptical because we've all been brought up with the spy films and the way in which the KGB are allegedly able to train people to avoid them.

"But we are talking about really modern technology in the 21st century and we are testing it.

"It won't only just pick up whether a person is lying, it will be a major deterrent to people actually telling an untruth when they are under supervision and when it is necessary to find out what they've been up to."

Mr Blunkett said satellite tracking would mean "a more secure system and people can rest more securely in their beds".

Shadow home secretary David Davis said the measures would be "an assistance" but Mr Blunkett's hand was being forced by "failures in the past"."Prisons now are absolutely full. He has not built enough prisons," Mr Davis told Today.

Technology was fallible and attempts to fit trucks in Germany with similar tracking devices had been abandoned, he added.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Mark Oaten said: "I would rather use that and have people out actually doing stuff in the community - paying back the community - rather than just lying around in a prison cell for 23 hours a day."

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