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Criminal ingenuity beats the tags system.

Special Correspondent

Criminals are becoming ever more cunning and ingenious as they try to beat electronic tagging.

Experts believe that every six months someone comes up with a way of circumventing the system, prompting security firms to go back to the drawing board.

In one example, an electronically-tagged criminal slipped off his bracelet by attaching mini-jump leads to keep the electronic circuit intact while he cut the tag's wire.

And a tagged woman persuaded officials to fit the tag loosely around her ankle by claiming she was pregnant and her ankle would swell up.

"She wasn't, and it didn't," a source said. The woman then slipped the tag off.

A third offender had a wasting disease which caused him to lose so much weight so quickly he was able to slip the tag off his wrist.

More than 1,400 criminals have been fitted with tags to enforce curfew orders imposed by courts, and just three have managed to take off their tags off without triggering an alarm.

Probation Minister Ms Joyce Quin revealed the three breaches of the tags in a written answer to the Commons.

She said "critical medical information" about one offender was not passed on to the contractor.

It is understood this was the fact that he had a very serious illness which caused him to lose weight very quickly, so that he was soon able to slip the tag off his wrist.

Ms Quin also mentioned "an incorrect fitting" - understood to refer to a woman who claimed to be pregnant and persuaded staff to fit her tag more loosely than normal.

One tag system used a small transmitter attached to a copper wire, encased in plastic, which went round the offender's wrist or ankle.

If the copper wire was cut, the transmitter broadcast an alarm to a unit in the offender's home.

And, if the criminal went outside during his or her curfew period, an alarm was also triggered.

The unit in the home was connected by telephone to the tagging contractors' control rooms, who could alert police.

One ingenious offender in Manchester cut through the plastic on the tag in two places to expose the copper wire.

He then attached crocodile clips at each point, connected by a longer wire.

When he cut the tag's wire, the circuit remained intact, no alarm was triggered and he was able to slip the tag off.

He then placed it by his monitoring unit while he went out.

It is understood he was only caught by a random check on his home.

The equipment, produced by Digital Products Corporation and used in Greater Manchester by Securicor, has been withdrawn since the ruse was discovered in March.

MrDick Whitfield, chief probation officer for Kent and author of Tackling the Tag, said: "The history of tagging is an elegant game.

"Every six months somebody finds a way of circumventing something and the companies have to come up with something new.

"It will always provide a challenge to the tagged offenders.

"But this is only three breaches out of more than 1,400 tags."

Tags were introduced in 1995 to enforce curfew orders for offences "serious enough to justify a community sentence", the Home Office said.

Pilot schemes are under way in Berkshire, Greater Manchester, Norfolk, Suffolk, Middlesex, West Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire.
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Author:Clarke, Michael
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 20, 1998
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