Sobriety tags launched to tackle alcohol-fuelled crime

Criminals in Wales who commit alcohol-fuelled crimes can be banned from drinking and ordered to wear a ‘sobriety tag’ by judges from today (October 21) as part of a new scheme that will be extended to England early next year.

Oct 21, 2020
By Tony Thompson

The tags monitor offenders’ sweat every 30 minutes and alert the Probation Service if alcohol has been consumed.

They will be issued to those subjected to an alcohol abstinence order, which allows a court to ban the individual from drinking for up to 120 days. Failure to comply with the ban will see them returned to court for further sentencing or fines.

The scheme is part of a series of reforms announced by the Lord Chancellor last month to make community orders stricter and expand the use of electronic monitoring.

Alcohol is a factor in around 39 per cent of violent crime, with the social and economic cost of alcohol-related harm stretching to more than £21 billion a year. It is seen as one of the driving influencers of domestic violence and unprovoked attacks on strangers.

The tags can distinguish between drinks and other types of alcohol – such as hand sanitiser or perfume. They cannot be switched off and can also alert if someone tries to block contact between the tag and their skin.

The use of sobriety tags will be backed up by targeted professional support, signposting offenders to the help they need to improve their lifestyle and rein in their drinking. Referrals to treatment will continue to be made for those with more serious alcohol addictions who commit crimes.

Minister for Crime and Policing Kit Malthouse said: “All too often we see the devastating effects of alcohol-fuelled behaviour, reckless crimes and casual violence which blight our neighbourhoods and the lives of too many victims.

“This proven new tool can break the self-destructive cycle that offenders end up in, helping them sober up if they choose to and the courts to punish those who don’t.”

The scheme follows two successful pilots in London and across Humberside, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire, which showed that offenders were alcohol free on over 97 per cent of the days monitored. Wearers also reported a positive impact on their lives, wellbeing and behaviour.

At present, abstinence orders can last for four months but the Government is looking at whether they should be able to last longer as part of its sentencing reforms.

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: “Alcohol can have a devastating impact on lives and figures show it is a key factor behind far too many crimes.

“I am encouraged to see Wales at the forefront of implementing this new technology, which we believe will contribute towards lowering reoffending rates, making our streets safer and supporting those who need help.”

The Government’s plans to overhaul sentencing will see dangerous offenders spend longer in prison, while greater efforts will be made to tackle the root causes of offending.

Supervision of offenders in the community will be improved with greater powers for probation officers and increased curfews. The Government also plans to expand the use of GPS tags to track the movements of burglars, robbers and thieves when they are released from prison.

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