31 Jul 2014

Bottoms down? ‘Booze tags’ for drunken criminals

People who commit booze-related crimes in four London boroughs will soon be forced to wear US-style ankle tags that monitor their drinking, under a new pilot scheme.

There is no hiding how drunk you are from the “sobriety tags” which monitor the wearer’s sweat every 30 minutes and test if it contains alcohol.

If any trace is found, an alert will be sent directly to the offender’s probation officer. They can then be recalled to court and could face sanctions such as a fine or a re-sentencing.

London Mayor Boris Johnson is behind the scheme, which is being piloted for one year in four London boroughs: Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Sutton – all of which happen to be south of the River Thames.

In terms of how many people will be affected, it is thought that up to 150 offenders will be fitted initially. They’ll be banned from drinking for 120 days – and will wear the tag to test whether they stick to the ban.

The mandatory tags are widely used in the US, and are aimed at reducing alcohol-related reoffending, ease pressure on the police and courts, and make streets safer. Government estimates put the cost of alcohol-related crime at between £8bn and £13bn every year, while 40 per cent of all accident and emergency attendances are related to alcohol misuse.

‘Alcohol-fuelled criminal behaviour is a real scourge on our high streets’

The mayor’s office said that the scheme would not be used on people who are alcohol-dependent and require specialist support, and that offenders would be screened before being tagged.

Mr Johnson said: “‘Alcohol-fuelled criminal behaviour is a real scourge on our high streets, deterring law-abiding citizens from enjoying our great city, especially at night, placing massive strain on frontline services, whilst costing businesses and the taxpayer billions of pounds.

“I pledged to tackle this booze culture by making the case to government for new powers to allow mandatory alcohol testing as an additional enforcement option for the courts.

“This is an approach that has seen impressive results in the US, steering binge-drinkers away from repeated criminal behaviour, and I am pleased we can now launch a pilot scheme in London.”