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8-year-olds face electronic tagging
High-tech monitoring proposed
for out-of-control pre-teens

Posted: June 25, 2003
5:00 p.m. Eastern


In an effort to crack down on an epidemic of youth crime, Scotland is considering a proposal to electronically tag repeat offenders, possibly as young as eight years old, the daily Scotsman reported.

Complaints about youth crime and anti-social behavior have been overwhelming, says Margaret Curran, the Scottish Executive minister for communities.

Margaret Curran (photo: The Scotsman)

"We need to do what has to be done," she said. "If that's tough then that's tough. We are not helping these young people at all if we don't try to deal with their behavior."

Under the proposal, parents who fail to help impose tagging orders on their out-of-control children will face fines and even jail, the Scotsman said.

In an interview on BBC Scotland's Politics Show, Curran said no specific age would be stated in a consultation paper the Executive will submit on the issue.

However, when asked if children as young as 8 would be tagged, she replied: "Some people might say that we should. Some people might say there should be a higher age limit. I will take a view when we see the evidence."

The Scotsman reported Curran had confirmed 10 was the lowest age for tagging being considered.

England and Wales already have tagged 4,000 pre-teens since 2001 with a device that sends a signal to a transmitter in the offender's home and relays it to a central control. Similar monitoring has been done in the U.S. for more than a decade.

For the past year, Scottish courts have had the option of electronic tagging as an alternative to prison but only for adult offenders.

Statistics from the Scottish Executive show a 34 percent increase in breaches of the peace by juveniles since 1991.

"You get people coming in at 16 or 17 who are almost beyond redemption, hardened criminals," Curran told the Scottish newspaper. "Or having engaged in enough behavior to feel as if they're in a 'them and us' situation. We want to introduce them to behavior modification at an earlier age."

Civil libertarians and child advocacy groups are wary of the proposal, however, and some child psychologists insist the tags would become a "badge of honor" for rebellious youth.

"What tagging does to kids is give them status," said Jack Boyle, who has worked with older youths who have been tagged. "The only peers anti-social kids have are other anti-social kids."

He added though, he understands the "government has to do something about this minority who wreak havoc and misery."

"Tagging can have a short-term effect," he said. "It might keep them from committing a crime, keep them away from certain areas or keep them in the house."

The Scottish National Party's justice spokeswoman, Nicola Sturgeon, said legislators must "ensure tagging is not a cheap alternative to solving anti-social behavior."

"Children need to change by having their offending addressed, and they must have the opportunity to do so instead of all cases resulting in electronic tagging," she said, according to the Scottish Daily Record newspaper.

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