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Sobriety tags scheme extended after successful trial

The ankle tags can tell whether an offender has been drinking alcohol by monitoring their perspiration

A scheme which sees offenders wear ankle tags to monitor whether they have been drinking alcohol is set to continue after the pilot proved to be a huge success.

The government has also suggested it will now be rolled out across the country.

The so called ‘sobriety tags’ monitored alcohol in offenders’ perspiration, with the one year trial taking place in south London boroughs including Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Sutton for offences including drink driving, assault and drunk and disorderly.

Of the 111 alcohol abstinence requirement orders made to date, more than 100 offenders complied with the order and remained sober for up to 120 days, compared to an average compliance rate of 61 per cent for similar community based orders.

The London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime have now announced their plans to continue the scheme for a further six months, with the technology being delivered by US company Alcohol Monitoring Systems.

The extension will cost the force £105,000, with the contract with the firm worth £70,000 and a manager's contract extended for the period for £35,000.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “Alcohol-fuelled crimes put a massive strain on frontline services and cost businesses and taxpayers billions of pounds.

“From drink-driving, to assault, theft, and criminal damage, our sobriety tags have proved a fantastic success in helping offenders across south London to stay off the booze and avoid the circumstances under which they might reoffend.

“It’s now time to bring this exciting new crime fighting technology to the rest of the capital, and help remove the scourge of alcohol-fuelled criminal behaviour from all of London’s streets.”

Alcohol-related crime is estimated to cost the UK between £8bn and £13bn every year, with a significantly higher number of incidents in London than anywhere else in the country.

The tags, which are not aimed at people who are alcohol dependent and need specialist support, take readings every 30 minutes with the data wirelessly transmitted to be monitored by the authorities. Anyone found in breach of their sobriety order, whether through alcohol consumption or tampering with their tag, is given a formal warning, with a second breach leading to a fine, a tougher order or in some cases a custodial sentence.

An anonymous individual who has been subject to a tag said: "My life changed a lot for the good. My little six year old daughter is the one who loved it the most.

“She keeps saying how Daddy changed from a binge drinker to a more calm and happy man. I want to thank the people who invented this tag as it gives us an opportunity to change in a good way."

Justice Minister Andrew Selous added: “We are delighted to extend this successful scheme to crack down on alcohol-related crime. The results have been very encouraging and tie into the wider work we are doing to prevent people becoming victims of those who fail to control their drinking. 

“We are making the very best technology available to the police and other criminal justice agencies to help protect people from such crimes.

The trial in London of using a tag to monitor how much alcohol has been drunk is an example of using technology to solve this problem, and we are committed to making it available nationally.