In a bid to reduce alcohol-related violence, judges in England and Wales now have the power to force offenders to wear electronic ankle tags that monitor alcohol consumption. Ministers want to target binge drinkers who are blamed for at least half of the mayhem on Britain’s streets at weekends.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland announced the measures, which mean that courts can order individuals to comply with alcohol abstinence requirements whereby they avoid alcohol for up to 4 months. If the order is breached, they will face fines, community punishments and could even be sent to prison.
Rolling out the sobriety tags follows the success of a scheme launched by Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. A review published in early 2016 confirmed that 113 sobriety orders were imposed by courts in south London between July 2014 and July 2015, and that the compliance rate was 92%, which was shown to help cut reoffending. Evidence from the USA suggests that the devices reduce drink–driving and domestic abuse.
The alcohol bracelets are fitted to an individual’s ankle and continuously monitor any alcohol consumed. They work by automatically sampling perspiration every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, to test for alcohol use. The information is sent to police and probation officers and the tags beep if the offender breaks the rules.
Mr Buckland said: “The evidence showed they had quite a marked effect on reoffending. I’m committed to programmes like this where we can tackle the root causes of criminality and make a difference not just to the lives of the offenders but the lives of the communities where they live.”
“A lot of these people are people who have addictions and prey on their local communities, whether it’s acquisitive crime or worse. Using technology means we can help make a difference when it comes to removing alcohol as a driver of criminality.’
The tags will be fitted to individuals guilty of such offences as common assault and criminal damage. Alcoholics will also become eligible for tags for the first time. It is thought that the scheme will cost £22 million over 4 years.
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