THE Borders is the first area in Scotland to pioneer an electronic tag system for people on bail for domestic abuse allegations, it has emerged.

Within the last few weeks an individual placed on bail in Galashiels was fitted with the device, which enables the police to detect whether that person approaches the home of his suspected victim.

The introduction of the new tag system emerged as concern was aired at a meeting of the council’s Police, Fire & Rescue and Safer Communities Board over significant increases in domestic abuse and sexual offences in the Borders.

Over the last 12 months there were 1,284 domestic abuse incidents reported to the police in the region – a 17.43 per cent increase compared to the five-year average. Part of that increase is related to the impact of the pandemic, with the restrictions placing additional pressures on relationships.

Chief inspector Vincent Fisher, the region’s divisional commander, said: “Contact with the police directly is only one of the ways that you can report concerns about domestic abuse or sexual offending.

“We have got a lot of third sector organisations and other statutory partners, whether that be health or education. A young girl might be far more likely to tell a guidance teacher about something that has happened.

“I have no definitive answer to the reason behind the rise in domestic offending but the pandemic didn’t help. It set us on a trajectory where more people were locked up for  hours and days and weeks on end, when they wouldn’t have been otherwise and temperatures started to rise and tempers flared.

“One of the reasons for the increase in the domestic bail offences. That is proactive work. That’s us deciding who are priority offenders are and, where they have got bail conditions, making sure where they are.

“Just in the last two or three weeks we became the first sheriffdom to issue an electronic bail to an individual in Gala. That is basically an electronic tag to stay within their house during certain hours of the day, but we also put a ‘keep away box’ in the victim’s house, so the tag will tell us if they go near the victim. This new tool is the first in Scotland.”

The committee chairperson, Tweeddale East councillor Julie Pirone, who had raised her concerns at the the increase in domestic abuse incidents, said: “That sounds a really excellent idea going forward and gives people at lot of reassurance.

“You should be commended for being the first in Scotland to achieve that.”