An example of the device which would have been installed on the offender. (Image courtesy CNN)

For the first time in this country’s history, a person convicted of a criminal offence was affixed with an electronic device, allowing the State to monitor the person’s whereabouts continuously and with immediate effect.

A release from the Ministry of National Security reports that the installation of the device was performed on Wednesday 28 April 2021, by the Electronic Monitoring Unit. 

The Ministry explains that this follows an order of the High Court on April 23rd, via which the offender was granted bail, on a condition of compliance with the parameters of the Electronic Monitoring Programme.

The offender will be placed on Home Detention for a period of a year and will be required to wear the electronic monitoring ankle device 24 hours a day for the duration of the period,” the release stated.  “Failure of the person to comply with any of the terms of the order will result in the revocation of bail and immediate withdrawal from the Electronic Monitoring Programme.”

The Ministry notes that Electronic Monitoring is one of the major initiatives being implemented by Government to transform and modernize the criminal justice landscape in T&T.

“The Electronic Monitoring System is intended to contribute to the overhaul of the Penal System in Trinidad and Tobago by introducing a new sentencing option to the court as an alternative to incarceration, with a view to reducing prison overcrowding and introducing a more effective offender management system,” the Ministry said.

The Administration of Justice (Electronic Monitoring) Act was assented to on July 3rd, 2012. Amendments to this Act were made subsequently through the Administration of Justice (Electronic Monitoring) (Amendment) Act, No. 11 of 2020 to make provision for the implementation of an electronic monitoring system in Trinidad and Tobago and the use of electronic monitoring devices as part of the criminal justice system.

According to the Ministry, the legislation allows the Court to impose a sentence of electronic monitoring for an offence committed; in lieu of a sentence of imprisonment or part of any sentence imposed. The Court also may impose electronic monitoring as a condition of bail, or a Protection Order made under Section 5 of the Domestic Violence Act. Both pieces of legislation were proclaimed by the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on September 18th, 2020.

The Act provides for a fine of $50,000 as well as six months’ imprisonment for contravention of the Electronic Monitoring Regulations. The Act also makes provision for a fine of $100,000 as well as two years’ imprisonment for tampering with or removal of an electronic monitoring device.

In addition, the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) is empowered, under the Act, to immediately arrest any person who fails to comply with any agreement or condition related to the programme.