London will be the first city in the UK to enforce alcohol abstinence among binge-drinking offenders through the use of high-tech ankle tags.
The tag – which is anticipated to be handed out to between 100 and 150 offenders during a pilot scheme – will work by monitoring the perspiration of an offender to measure alcohol levels.
A year-long trial of the device will affect the South London Local Justice Area covering Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Sutton, where judges will be able to hand out sentences of ‘alcohol abstinence monitoring’.
This sentence will ban a convicted offender from drinking any alcohol for up to 120 days, forcing them to wear the ‘transdermal’ anklet.
The technology behind the device has been said to have been successful in the US, and the hope is that it will reduce alcohol related re-offending and tackle “the real scourge on our high streets”, according to Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
Professor Keith Humphreys, a former senior policy adviser at the drug policy office in the White House, told the BBC that ankle-tagging worked.
“The effect on crime has been dramatic. In South Dakota – where this was initially developed – there has been a 12% drop in repeat drink driving arrests and a 9% drop in domestic violence arrests,” he said.
Alcohol related crime is estimated to cost the UK between £8bn and £13bn, with 40% of all A&E attendances being connected to alcohol misuse.
London fares the worst in the country for alcohol related crime according to Public Health England.
Breaches of the order, such as tampering with the ankle tag, can result in a fine or the re-sentencing of the offender, which could lead to imprisonment.
Provisions are in place to ensure that no one dependent on alcohol is sentenced to wearing the tag, according to the Mayor of London Office.
Mr Johnson, who visited Croydon Magistrates’ Court to launch the scheme, said: “Alcohol-fuelled criminal behaviour is 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.”
Metropolitan Police Commander Simon Letchford, MPS lead for alcohol related crime, said: “We want people to enjoy London’s vibrant night-time economy. However, the misuse of alcohol can result in disorder and anti-social behaviour that causes misery for others and we welcome any initiatives that tackle repeat offending.”