By Darren McCaffrey,
Repeat offenders of alcohol-related offences will be forced to wear tags, to monitor if they are still drinking under a pilot scheme in London.
The mandatory, so called ‘sobriety tags’ which look like electronic tags could force abstinence for up to four months and work by recording alcohol intake – measuring air and sweat emissions from the skin every half an hour.
If offenders break a drinking ban, they could they could find themselves back in front of a judge who will consider further sanctions or send them to prison.
This scheme will initially only apply to a handful of London boroughs, Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Sutton and involve 100-150 offenders and is not aimed at those who are alcohol dependent.
The Mayor of London, who announced the scheme, said his aim was to reduce crime.
Boris 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.”
Alcohol related crime remains a costly problem – estimated at between £8bn and £13bn every year – and two out of every five A&E attendances are due to drink related injuries.
The tags are widely used in the United States, most famously on troubled actress Lindsay Lohan who was ordered to wear one after failing to show up for a probation hearing.
Authorities claim it has a success rate above 95% as well as reducing re-offending and domestic violence.
Critics have attacked the scheme, arguing that monitoring what people drink is a step too far, though that’s denied by the company behind the tags.
Matthew Mitchell told Sky News: “It is not a human right to abuse alcohol and create public disorder and therefore a proportionate sentence in being ordered to wear this is entirely fair.
“This is high tech monitoring and this is the way our modern society is involving in testing people, which is much better than other systems.”
Professor Keith Humphreys, former White House Drugs Advisor, who has advised City Hall on the project, said: “The Mayor’s Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC) will evaluate and review evidence from the pilot to develop recommendations regarding a wider introduction of the scheme.
“The tags register alcohol consumption but do not monitor movement or location of the individuals and data will be held in accordance with data protection laws.”
A pilot scheme trialled in Scotland lasting several years failed to lead to the system being adopted. This latest attempt is due to last a year.