A scheme to tackle alcohol-related crime through the use of compulsory electronic ankle tags has proved such a success it is being extended, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has announced. The one year ‘sobriety tag’ trial kept 91 per cent of offenders sober and is to be continued, with proposals for a capital-wide roll-out.
In the first scheme of its kind in the UK, the compulsory, round the clock ankle tags monitor alcohol in an offenders’ perspiration. They have been used in Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Sutton, for offences such as drink driving, assault, and drunk and disorderly conduct for the last year. 111 ‘alcohol abstinence monitoring requirement’ orders have been issued to date and more than 100 offenders have complied with their order and through wearing the tag remained sober for up to 120 days. The average compliance rate for other similar community based orders is 61 per cent.
Alcohol-related crime is estimated to cost the UK between £8bn and £13bn every year, placing a heavy burden on public services – 40 per cent of all A&E attendances are related to alcohol misuse. According to Public Health England, alcohol-related crime is significantly higher in London than all other English regions.
Following the success of the South London pilot, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime is extending the scheme and working closely with the government to drive support for a London-wide roll out of the scheme. The scheme has also won government support with a manifesto commitment to roll the tags out nationally.
The introduction of the sobriety tags was one of the Mayor’s 2012 Manifesto pledges. They have been welcomed by the police, courts and probation officers to help reduce alcohol related re-offending, ease the pressure on police and the criminal justice system and make town centres safer, particularly at night.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Alcohol-fuelled crimes put a massive strain on frontline services and cost businesses and taxpayers billions of pounds. From drink-driving, to assault, theft, and criminal damage, our sobriety tags have proved a fantastic success in helping offenders across south London to stay off the booze and avoid the circumstances under which they might reoffend. It’s now time to bring this exciting new crime fighting technology to the rest of the capital, and help remove the scourge of alcohol-fuelled criminal behaviour from all of London’s streets.”
Justice Minister Andrew Selous said: “We are delighted to extend this successful scheme to crack down on alcohol-related crime. The results have been very encouraging and tie into the wider work we are doing to prevent people becoming victims of those who fail to control their drinking.
“We are making the very best technology available to the police and other criminal justice agencies to help protect people from such crimes.
“The trial in London of using a tag to monitor how much alcohol has been drunk is an example of using technology to solve this problem, and we are committed to making it available nationally.”
The tags work by taking readings every 30 minutes and the data is wirelessly transmitted to be monitored by the authorities. Anyone found in breach of their sobriety order, whether through alcohol consumption or tampering with their tag, is given a formal warning. A second breach leads to a fine or a tougher order, or in some cases a custodial sentence.
An anonymous individual who has previously been subject to AAMR said: “I had a very good experience with the alcohol tag and I’m very grateful to this new system. My life changed a lot for the good. My little six year old daughter is the one who loved it the most. She keeps saying how Daddy changed from a binge drinker to a more calm and happy man. I want to thank the people who invented this tag as it gives us an opportunity to change in a good way.”
NOTE TO EDITORS
*Figures correct as of Friday 24 July
· MOPAC has contracted Alcohol Monitoring Systems Ltd (AMS) to deliver London’s Alcohol Abstinence Monitoring Requirement technology including transdermal tags.
· The pilot uses tried and tested technology to build on similar successful schemes in the US.
· 91 per cent of offenders were compliant with the terms of the AAMR.
· A London Probation Service review over the same period found that approximately 61 per cent of offenders complied with community based orders.
· The tags are designed with a number of anti-tamper features and any disruption will also trigger an alert which will also be sent to the offender’s probation officer.
· Offenders on the scheme are carefully selected according to their circumstances; for example it is not aimed at people who are alcohol dependent and who need specialist support. However, people identified as suitable for the programme will be directed to treatment advice services.
· The pilot scheme in south London is being extended for a further six months.