Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Emirati athlete won medals while wearing electronic tag, Abu Dhabi official says

Abu Dhabi Judicial Department says more than 300 people have been fitted with the monitoring device so far this year

Electronic tags are widely used in countries such as the UK, where they are traditionally fitted on the ankle. Alamy
Electronic tags are widely used in countries such as the UK, where they are traditionally fitted on the ankle. Alamy

A medal-winning Emirati athlete is one of more than 300 Abu Dhabi offenders to be fitted with an electronic tag since the alternative to prison was rolled out this year.

The monitoring device - common in many countries across the world and traditionally placed on the ankle - allows people who commit minor crimes carrying sentences of less than two years, such as theft and writing bad cheques, to be placed under house arrest rather than spending time behind bars.

The devices, also called GPS bracelets, track the location of the person wearing them and alerts authorities when the wearer steps outside of a designated area.

Legal experts said the scheme would ease the pressure on the prison system while offering more appropriate punishment for low level offenders.

Khalid Al Shamsi, of Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, explains the workings of the electronic tag. Courtesy of the Abu Dhabu Judicial Department. 
Khalid Al Shamsi, of Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, explains the workings of the electronic tag. Courtesy of the Abu Dhabu Judicial Department. 

The permitted areas include a person's home, workplace and nearby mosques.

Khalid Al Shamsi, head of community service public prosecution at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, said 302 people have been fitted with tags since the system's implementation in January, including a notable athlete.

“The athlete managed to participate in a UAE-based international championship and won medals for the national team,” said Mr Al Shamsi, who declined to disclose the identity of the athlete or the sport he participates in.

“There are many benefits to the electronic observation; the person can continue his studies, work, take care of his family without mixing with serious criminals in jail which could bring out the worst in him.

"He would still feel the burden of his offence being placed under police scrutiny all the time."

A number of sportsman and high-profile figures have been fitted with electronic tags as punishments for crimes in recent years, to allow them to perform their duties in the public eye.

Footballer Jermaine Pennant played an English Premier League match for Birmingham City against Tottenham Hotspur in 2005 while wearing a tag on his ankle following a conviction for drink-driving.

In March of this year, British politician Fiona Onasanya took part in a key parliamentary vote in the House of Commons while fitted with an electronic tag following a conviction over a motoring offence.

For cases that were ruled before the new procedure came into effect, inmates can request the alternative punishment after serving half of their sentence.

“So if a person was sentenced to two years in jail, and he had already spent one year by the time the e-observation came into effect, he could request to alternate the punishment for the remaining period,” said Hassan Al Hammadi, head of the public prosecution department at ADJD.

The penalty for trying to remove the monitoring device is comparable to the punishment for attempting to escape prison - a sentence of one to two years.

Culprits can also face fines of up to Dh30,000 if they are found to have destroyed the tag.

Abu Dhabi Police has previously stated the initiative will help to "reintegrate" offenders into society, ensuring those who have committed minor crimes can continue to support their family and keep up education and employment.

In September, an inmate in Ras Al Khaimah was fitted with the tag to allow him to take his son to school on the first day of the academic year.

"The use of technology in the implementation of judicial rulings is a new method used by Abu Dhabi Police to keep abreast of the era of modernisation and development," said Brig Ahmad Al Muhairi, of Abu Dhabi Police.

"This method will help convicts to reintegrate into society and reduce reoccurrence of crimes."

The UAE is understood to be one of the first Arab nations to introduce tagging. Algeria began tagging some prisoners in 2017.

Updated: October 31, 2019 02:22 PM

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