Ankle-tags pilot scheme will monitor binge drinkers in London

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 8:55pm
UPDATED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 8:57pm


Binge drinkers in Britain who commit minor crimes will be prevented from drinking for set periods using ankle tags that measure whether they are consuming alcohol, under a trial scheme in London.

The year-long test, covering four parts of south London, will be the first in which British offenders are compulsorily fitted with the tags, which measure alcohol levels in perspiration and transmit the readings to a base station in the person's home. If alcohol is detected, an alert is sent to probation officers.

Breaches of the order, or tampering with the tags, can bring prison sentences. The trial is expected to involve up to 150 offenders, who will be banned from drinking alcohol for 120 days.

The "sobriety tag" scheme was launched by London Mayor Boris Johnson, who visited the magistrates court in Croydon, one of the areas to test the technology, along with Lambeth, Southwark and Sutton.

He 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.

"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."

The tags are made by Alcohol Monitoring Systems a Colorado-based company whose technology has been used for more than a decade in the US.

Under a 2012 law, courts are able to order offenders to abstain from alcohol for up to 120 days. Guidelines on the tags suggest offences such as drink-driving, resisting arrest, assault and criminal damage as suitable for the scheme, on the proviso that alcohol played a role in the crime.

Offences related to domestic violence are excluded. The pilot scheme also excludes anyone dependent on alcohol.

British charity Alcohol Concern welcomed the scheme but said it must be used in conjunction with effective treatment and other measures.

The group's chief executive, Jackie Ballard, said: "About half of all crime is alcohol-related so it makes sense to get to the heart of the problem by tackling drinking amongst offenders.

"The alcohol tag is a good idea, but to work effectively it's important that people get support and access to treatment."