The justice ministry said on Friday it supports the introduction of electronic tagging as an alternative to serving a prison sentence, with the exclusion of those guilty of exploiting or sexually abusing minors, violence against women, drug trafficking and murder.

The announcement came as MPs consider the introduction of electronic tags as a solution for overcrowding at Nicosia central prisons.

According to the statement, the justice ministry supports the amendment of the relevant legislation to introduce tagging as modernisation of the penitentiary system.

However, the ministry said that following consultation with the police chief and the directorate of prisons, it concluded that certain categories of detainees should be excluded if the measure is implemented.

These include people who are accused of exploiting or sexually abusing children, crimes of violence against women, drug trafficking and murder.

Justice Minister Stephie Dracou “does not silence, but on the contrary she encourages free expression and the submission of suggestions by the competent services of the ministry during the formulation of policy,” the announcement added.

“This issue is very serious, it requires consideration and reflection, and we expect that through the discussion, with the participation of other stakeholders such as the Attorney General of the Republic and the courts, parliament will reach the most correct solution,” it said.

The ministry’s goal is the “security and protection of the fundamental rights of all residents”.

According to the House legal affairs committee chair Nicos Tornaritis, who made statements after the meeting on Wednesday, there are 424 places at the prisons but it is currently housing 763 inmates.

He said there had been a recent influx due to the number of foreign nationals arrested at Paphos airport trying to leave the country with false and forged documentation. A number of them have received jail sentences.

MPs suggested the introduction of electronic tags rather than incarceration to ease the overcrowding.

“It is a practice which is applied in practice in many of the EU countries,” he said.

Tornaritis said that all political parties were favour of the move as well as the government, which has been invited by the committee to submit a bill as soon as possible.

Tornaritis said the legal committee would visit the prisons in the coming days and hear the positions of the prisoners themselves.