Police Call for Tracker Chips in Paedophiles

BRITAIN’S most senior policeman is proposing that electronic chips should be surgically implanted into convicted paedophiles and dangerous sex offenders so they can be more easily tracked. Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said the implants would be tracked by satellite, enabling authorities to set up “zones” from which sex offenders would be barred. These could include schools, playgrounds and former victims’ homes. Any attempt by the offender to enter the zones would trigger alarms in a monitoring centre, enabling police to act.

Jones, whose association represents all 43 chief constables in England and Wales, said the scheme would help to reassure the public at a time of mounting concern about the government’s handling of sex offenders.

“If we are prepared to track cars, why don’t we track people? You could put surgical chips into those of the most dangerous sex offenders who are are willing to be controlled,” he said.

His comments follow the announcement last month by John Reid, the home secretary, of a review of the way paedophiles and other sex offenders are treated on their release.

Another option being considered is the so-called “Megan’s law” operated in America, which allows parents to find out if paedophiles are living near their homes. Ministers have previously ruled out transplanting the law to Britain because of fears that paedophiles could be attacked by vigilantes.

Jones said the Home Office review had given police and ministers “a great opportunity” to consider a wide range of options.

He said he was aware that civil liberties groups would object to the idea of a “Big Brother” monitoring system but emphasised that the chips would be implanted only with the agreement of sex offenders and would be targeted at those guilty of the most serious crimes.

“You could have a pilot scheme for the people who represent the highest risk and who would voluntarily want to go into this. You’d be surprised how many would be willing to submit to that kind of control,” he said.

The chips — inserted beneath the skin under local anaesthetic — could also monitor the heart rate and blood pressure of the offender, alerting authorities to the possible imminence of an attack.

Dr William Harwin, of the cybernetics department at Reading University, said such tags were now widely available: “Similar tracking chips are already extensively used on pets and livestock.”

Supporters believe implanted chips would be more effective than electronic tags on ankles or wrists because they cannot easily be removed.

The Home Office is evaluating a trial in which the movements of released sex offenders and wife beaters have been tracked by satellite using conventional tags.

On a British-style Megan’s law, well placed sources say Reid is likely to opt for a compromise solution that will mean information about a convicted sex offender’s address could be disclosed to a “respected” member of a local community, rather than to the public on a website.

Figures released by the Home Office last month showed that since 2001 more than 3,300 sex offenders had been punished for absconding or failing to tell police where they were living.