District court seeks ruling on anklet bracelets

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District court seeks ruling on anklet bracelets

The electronic anklet law, which was amended in July to make it retroactive - allowing prosecutors to cuff felons who have finished their sentences - is now cast in doubt because a regional court has asked the Constitutional Court to take a second look at the law.

The ruling could affect nearly 7,000 convicts who are slated to wear the electronic anklets.

The Chungju District Court in northern Chungcheong made the request, saying the law could be unconstitutional.

The court made the request after prosecutors asked the court, using the revised law, to sentence a convicted child rapist surnamed Kim, 59, to electronic anklet cuffing. Kim is still in prison but prosecutors made the request because his sentence is coming to an end.

But the court said granting the request would be going against an existing principle in the Constitution, which states that a felon cannot be convicted for the same crime twice.

“The electronic anklet is indeed for security purposes, but [according to the amended law] those who are cuffed with anklets after they have finished serving their sentences are also subject to limited boundaries and must also receive permission whenever they relocate to another area,” the judicial panel said. “This retroactive cuffing can be seen as the equal to legal punishment.

“Even if the electronic anklets are seen as a measure to protect society from the danger of possible future crimes and not as a restraint for the criminals’ former wrongdoings, [cuffing them] would be the same as doling out punishment for those who have not yet committed any crimes. This would be doubling punitive action and also goes against another constitutional law that forbids the excessive restraining of the physical body and freedom of the individual through over-punishment.”

If the Constitutional Court decides that the amended law is unconstitutional, prosecutors may face difficulties in cuffing an additional 6,900 convicts, for whom they had announced they will be requesting retroactive electronic anklet sentences.

Eleven former felons have already been cuffed with the anklets by prosecutors after the law was changed.

The amended law states that sex offenders convicted before September 2008 can be sentenced to additional time with the electronic anklet with the permission of the court, within three years after their sentence ended or after they have been released on parole. The electronic anklet law was first introduced in Korea in September 2008.

“The court made the decision to make the request to take extra care in its ruling,” a source at the Chungju court said.

By Christine Kim [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]
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