Rebecca Gallanagh, a 22-year-old from Tamworth, has been fined £140 for sticking fake diamonds to her electronic tag. She said she had been inspired by My Big Fat Gypsy wedding in order to try to make it look pretty.

So why was she fined, and is she the only offender to have treated her tag with such disdain?


Blinged

According to a report in the Birmingham Mail, she used nail glue to spell her name in diamanté on her electronic tag. She then moved house, so needed to have another tag fitted. When staff saw what she had done to the first tag she was reported. They said the diamanté could interfere with the way the tag functioned, and the case went to Burton Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.

The Daily Mail reported that in court the company argued that she had "compromised the integrity" of the device with her diamanté design. Her lawyer explained: "This is a young girl who was coming up to Christmas - there were opportunities where she was out and about, and she was trying to make the tag look nice."

But magistrates were unmoved, and she was fined £55, ordered to pay £85 court costs, and charged a £20 victim support surcharge.

After the hearing the Daily Mail reported her as saying: "I did it to make me feel better about wearing it. I was quite proud of it. I like to bling things up, and wear blingy clothes and watches. It just matched my style."

Alarming

On the one hand Gallanagh argues that this is a storm in a teacup because she didn't know she was doing anything wrong. It begs the question as to whether the UK court system should spend its time hearing cases of 20-somethings who take their lead from My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.

However, on the other hand, it raises the whole issue of whether tagging can possibly work. In this particular instance the tag is not being seen as a punishment or a deterrent, but a fashion accessory. Gallanagh was ordered to wear the tag for three months - and stay in at night - after a fight outside a nightclub in Tamworth. However, rather than being ashamed of the tag, she is making a feature of it.

As a punishment goes, it's clearly a failure.

And while you could argue that it's meant to enforce a curfew rather than be a punishment in itself, this would only be effective if the prison service could actually be relied on to take action when someone breaks a curfew.

Not alone

This isn't the only time the actions of a tagged criminal have left us dumbstruck.

Just last month Richard Almaraoui, 33 of Dereham, Norfolk, decided to continue his serial burglary spree while wearing a tag. It recorded him breaking into a flat and stealing a laptop. He was jailed for five years.

In November last year, twenty-year-old Sean Grant of Fergleen Park appeared in Londonderry Magistrates Court, after his mum had turned off his monitoring device in the middle of the night because she wanted to use the vacuum cleaner.

Last August, Eric Joyce, MP for Falkirk, was fined £600 for removing an electronic tag he had received after a bar fight with some other MPs. He took it off in order to take part in a House of Commons boat race, because he thought it looked silly.

Then there was John Davies a 20-year-old from Slough, Berkshire, who was wearing a tag when he joined a gang trying to steal £90million in gold, diamonds and cash at Heathrow.

There are scores of far more horrible examples, involving attacks and murders. Some offenders cut the tag off before carrying out the crime, some did it close to home so it was within range, and some wore the tag and faced the consequences.

A report last year found that in total, 900 offences had been committed by people wearing tags. These included 70 burglaries, 64 assaults, 32 drug crimes and 16 robberies. You have to wonder whether a system that costs us £100 million a year and is disobeyed by half of all people who are tagged is achieving anything at all.





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