THE electronic tagging of sex offenders and other prisoners will be rolled out on a pilot basis in the coming months.

Justice minister Dermot Ahern is awaiting a final report from a working group set up to examine specific possibilities as well as the implementation of electronic monitoring generally in this jurisdiction.

The final report, compiled by a working group led by the Probation Service, is expected to be submitted to the justice minister within weeks.

Its interim report recommended using electronic monitoring technology to monitor higher-risk convicted sex offenders for the first six months following the completion of their prison sentences and their release back to the community.

Ahern has already said he supports the introduction of electronic tagging of some prisoners.

A tendering process will begin when the Department of Justice decides how to proceed with the process.

Ahern has said he will "balance the cost to the public purse against the added value for offender management generally and ultimately the benefits for public safety".

Two types of electronic monitoring were originally considered – a telephone-based system and a GPS-based system. In the telephone-based system, a bracelet is attached to a person to be monitored by the nearest telephone-based station. The GPS system shows the location of the tag through a satellite.

This system is more expensive and has been used in the UK. In 2004/2005, electronic tagging was used there in 53,000 cases at a cost of £102m (€107.9m).

Ahern has indicated GPS monitoring is more likely to be introduced in Ireland as it is more technologically advanc­ed.

Fine Gael's justice spokes­man Charlie Flanagan has said the introduction of tagging "is long overdue" and questioned whether it would be used as a "cynical exercise" to free up prison space.

GPS monitoring of sex offenders after their release may require new legislation and Ahern has instructed his officials to explore the options.