'Sobriety tags' rolled out across London

25 February 2016

·         Successful scheme monitors criminals’ alcohol intake

·         Pilot results out today show 92 per cent compliance rate

·         Alcohol related crime costs the taxpayer up to £13 billion per year

·         Justice Secretary and Mayor of London committed to stop reoffending

An innovative pilot to keep criminals sober will be extended throughout London, after results out today (February 25) showed it was successful in 92 per cent of cases.

Thanks to new funds from the Ministry of Justice and the Mayor of London, courts in the capital will be able to put an ankle bracelet on offenders whose crimes were influenced by alcohol.

The tags perform around-the-clock monitoring of alcohol in an offender’s perspiration. If they drink again, breaching their alcohol abstinence order, they can be returned to court for further sanctions.

The Ministry of Justice is contributing £400,000 towards the cost of extending the scheme past its initial four pilot boroughs to the whole of the capital from April 2016. The initiative will be run by the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), which is contributing £450,000 to the extension.

Justice Secretary Michael Gove said:

“I am absolutely committed to reducing re-offending – so we can cut crime and better protect the public.

“By giving courts this new power and making the latest technology available, we are helping offenders understand the detrimental impact drinking alcohol can have on their behaviour.

“This innovative approach has delivered impressive results so far and we will be building on them with this this wider London roll out.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said:

“Alcohol-fuelled crimes put a huge strain on frontline services, costing the taxpayer billions of pounds each year.

“From assault, to drink-driving, to theft and criminal damage, this innovative technology is driving down re-offending and proving rehabilitation does not have to mean prison.

“After such a success in South London, it’s time to roll out these tags to the rest of the capital and rid our streets of these crimes, by helping even more offenders stay off the booze and get back on the right track.”

The Mayor’s office for Policing And Crime has overseen an 18 month pilot of the sobriety tags across four London boroughs.

Today’s report finds the tags enjoy a 92 per cent compliance rate. In the first 12 months of the pilot, 113 alcohol abstinence requirement orders were made and offenders were required to remain sober for up to 120 days. This compares favourably with the compliance rate for other community based orders.

Iain Anderson, Deputy Director of Rehabilitation at the London Community Rehabilitation Company, said: 

“In the initial trials, the sobriety tag has already proved hugely successful in helping those convicted of alcohol-related crime to deal with the damaging impact of alcohol.

“Through sobriety tagging, we have seen a significant rise in the number of people who comply with their community order and we are really keen to expand this success by using this innovative ‘tool’ to achieve meaningful results.”                                                

Alcohol-related crime costs up to £13 billion per year – with a significantly higher number of incidents in London than elsewhere in the country. Police officers spend on average half of their time dealing with alcohol-related casework and around 40 per cent of A&E attendances are related to drinking.*

The tags 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.

 

 

Notes to editors

The full process review of the proof of concept pilot can be read here: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/aamr_final.pdf

*The Institute of Alcohol Studies report ‘Alcohol’s Impact on Emergency Services (October 2015) can be read here:

http://www.ias.org.uk/uploads/IAS%20report%20low%20res.pdf

The pilot started in July 2014 in the South London Local Justice Area, covering Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Sutton. The pilot was originally expected to end on 31 January 2016, but will be continued in all four pilot areas before the trial is extended across London from April. The pilot uses tried and tested technology to build on similar successful schemes in the US.

MOPAC has contracted Alcohol Monitoring Systems Ltd (AMS) to deliver London's Alcohol Abstinence Monitoring Requirement technology including transdermal tags.

The scheme targets criminals whose alcohol use played part in offences such as assault, drink driving and drunk and disorderly conduct. They will be banned from drinking any alcohol for up to 120 days and monitoring constantly using a sobriety ankle bracelet.

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.

If an offender breaches the sobriety order, they can be returned to court where further sanctions can be imposed. These sanctions can include a fine or revocation of the order which will lead to resentencing of the offender. Persistent non-compliance may ultimately result in imprisonment.

The extended pilot will cost around £850,000. The MoJ will contribute £400,000 and MOPAC will contribute £450,000. MOPAC are funding the extension of the existing pilot to the end of this financial year.

Offenders on the scheme will be carefully selected according to their circumstances, for example it is not aimed at people who are alcohol dependent and who need specialist support. People identified as unsuitable for the programme will be directed to treatment advice services.

All offenders subject to the requirement should receive advice on alcohol consumption and signposting to relevant advice agencies.