, VIENNA, Aug 31 – Electronic ankle tags are causing a row in Austria after a man found guilty of sexually abusing his daughter was allowed to serve his remaining six months under house arrest while wearing one.
Electronic tags have been in use since September 2010 for suspects with a year or less to serve of their sentence. They have been applied in close to 1,000 cases, while more than 2,000 offenders have requested the device.
But more controversial has been the use of electronic ankle tags for sex offenders. So far, 22 have been allowed to use the tag and 11 more have applied for one.
The debate came to a head this week when a court allowed a teacher sentenced to three years in prison for abusing his now 31-year-old daughter over six years, to serve the suspended part of his sentence under house arrest.
The ankle tag arrangement will allow Carl S., 55, from Lower Austria state, to leave his home for professional activities as well as for two hours every afternoon from Monday to Friday for “personal errands”.
Both experts and the prison had advised against the measure, and Justice Minister Beatrix Karl appealed it, to no avail, amid widespread and alarmist coverage in Austrian tabloids.
“The current system of giving ankle tags to sex offenders needs reforming,” Karl told the Oesterreich daily on Friday.
The court ruled there was little risk of the teacher offending again since the abuse ended in 1995. He has maintained his innocence, arguing his daughter’s accusations were payback for his strict parenting.
Critics argue that victims should have a say in whether their tormentor should go free.
Following the uproar, the justice ministry has said it will consider tighter rules for granting ankle tags to sex offenders, with parliament expected to debate new measures as early as this autumn.
The ministry said it was also looking into a new monitoring system via global positioning system (GPS) technology – already used in Spain and Portugal – that would allow offenders to leave the house but remain within a given zone.
“This would allow sex offenders to be kept apart from victims. If for example someone wearing a tag approached a particular apartment, an alarm would sound,” Karl said.
Carl S. is now living near his ex-wife Elisabeth, 56, and daughter.
“Carl has done his penance … I just want the whole thing to be over,” his wife told Oesterreich.