‘Sober up or an electronic tag will mandate your sobriety’

As the nation’s pubs ready themselves to reopen, many of us look forward to that first long-awaited drink with friends and family.

However, for a reckless few, alcohol-fuelled behaviour can have devastating consequences. Whether it be the punch-ups at closing time, unprovoked attacks in the street or domestic abuse, alcohol is a contributing factor in almost 40 per cent of all violent crime in England and Wales.

These alcohol-fuelled crimes cost the country £21.5 billion every single year. That’s why today marks a particularly proud moment for me.

Ten years after I first proposed them, ‘sobriety tags’ are finally being rolled out across England. Offenders who commit a crime under the influence can now be ordered by a judge to wear a tag around their ankle for up to four months to ensure they stay sober. The probation service is alerted if alcohol is detected in their sweat, and they could find themselves back in the dock if they drink. The vast majority don’t.

Both in early trials and since they began being used in Wales in October, the tags have overwhelmingly kept people on the straight and narrow. Offenders stayed alcohol-free on over 95 per cent of the days they were monitored.

One, a military veteran whose drink problem led him down a path of crime and in and out of prison, told me the tag had saved his life. He knew his drinking had got out of control when he was convicted of domestic abuse but, for him, curfews and exclusions didn’t work. If he wasn’t allowed in a pub, he would drink on the street. If he had to be home by a certain time, then he’d just continue drinking on his couch. What did work, however, was the sobriety tag. He’s been completely alcohol and crime free ever since and is now in a new relationship and looking for work.

But sobriety is not the only gain. Ultimately these tags mean less crime, fewer victims and safer homes for those whose lives are blighted by alcohol-induced domestic abuse.

This is a tool that will help keep our towns and cities free from the type of reckless crime and casual violence that haunts neighbourhoods up and down the country. It will also help protect our brave emergency workers, the police and paramedics who too often end up in the firing line simply for doing their jobs.

That’s why we’re augmenting the tags with targeted, professional support so offenders can manage their drinking behaviour when the tag comes off. Breaking the self-destructive cycle of offending we too often see.

Electronic monitoring is a powerful tool, helping police and probation officers keep an eye on dangerous and prolific offenders round the clock. And now we are taking it to the next level, using it more often and more creatively.

Early next month, we will begin tagging serial burglars and robbers when they are released from prison in a world first. Their locations will be monitored by GPS satellites 24 hours a day, seven days a week so that they will be deterred from reoffending. If not put off, police will be able to pin them to the scene of the crime.

GPS tags are also being used by the probation service to ensure dangerous offenders aren’t going where they shouldn’t, such as near the homes of victims or their families, and to keep tabs on terrorists released from prison.

Today marks an important shift in our approach to alcohol-related crime and an innovative, new step in confronting a particularly stubborn and ugly domestic abuse problem.

My message to offenders is simple: sober up or a tag will mandate your sobriety, and show you the way to a better future.

Kit Malthouse MP is the Minister for Crime and Policing

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