Criminals in Wales who commit alcohol-fuelled crimes can be banned from drinking and ordered to wear a "sobriety tag" by judges from today.
The tags monitor offenders’ sweat every 30 minutes and alert the probation service if alcohol is consumed. These new powers allow courts to issue drinking bans for up to 120 days.
Not complying with their alcohol abstinence order could see people back in court for further sentencing, or facing fines.
Alcohol is a large factor in around 39% of violent crime, with the social and economic cost of alcohol-related harm exceeding £21 billion per year. It is seen as one of the contributing factors behind domestic violence and unprovoked attacks on strangers.
The Ministry of Justice said the sobriety tags would be backed up by targeted professional support, signposting offenders to the help they needed 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.
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% of the days monitored. Wearers also reported a positive impact on their lives, wellbeing and behaviour.
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At present, abstinence orders can last for four months but it's being considered whether they should be able to last longer as part of sentencing reforms.
The tags alert staff when they have been tampered with and can distinguish between drinks and other types of alcohol – such as hand sanitiser or perfume. They work 24/7 and can also tell if someone tries to block contact between the tag and their skin.
Minister for crime and policing, Kit Malthouse MP 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.”
Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart, added: "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 re-offending rates, making our streets safer and supporting those who need help.”