Local independent councillor, Michael O’Brien has called on the Minister for Justice to introduce electronic monitoring as a condition of bail for repeat offenders.
Cllr O’Brien raised the motion at the January meeting of Athlone Municipal District.
“We have seen a massive surge in burglaries in the Athlone district and right across the Midlands in recent months. Both urban and rural areas have been hit hard. Many people, and the elderly in particular are living in fear and this is not acceptable,” said Cllr O’Brien.
Cllr O’Brien said that opportunity for criminals to access rural Ireland via the improved motorway network has had a significant impact on rural crime.
Athlone Gardaí too believe that ease of motorway access may have been a factor in a spate of burglaries that hit the town in the run-up to Christmas.
Cllr O’Brien pointed out that there has been a 41 per cent increase in the number of reported burglaries in Westmeath for the year 2017, according to figures recently released by Westmeath Gardaí.
In 2016, 13 per cent of all crimes committed nationally were committed by people out on bail, an increase of two per cent on the previous year.
“Ireland is very much behind the rest of Europe regarding electronic monitoring,” said Cllr O’Brien. “Electronic monitoring has been used successfully for over 20 years in the UK and for over 30 years in Australia. Research shows that where electronic monitoring is developed with support from probation and other services, the rate of re-offending can be greatly reduced.
“Under the Bail (Amendment ) Bill 2016, a working group was set up to examine how an electronic tagging system can be fairly monitored. I understand that this group has met three or four times since December 2016 and still has some distance to go.
“I would appeal to the Minister to make electronic monitoring a condition of bail for repeat offenders as soon as possible, as I believe it will help tackle the scourge of rural crime.”