United Kingdom

Drunks who commit crimes will be fitted with electronic tags

Problem drinkers who commit crimes are to be fitted with electronic sobriety tags that alert authorities if they have alcohol – with speeders in line for similar treatment.

The devices will let the Government put a 'police officer on every criminal's shoulder', Home Office minister Kit Malthouse said.

From today, offenders across Wales who commit booze-related crimes will be fitted with tags that detect if they drink alcohol and breach a court-imposed abstinence order.

The scheme will be brought in across England next spring.

Problem drinkers across Wales who commit drinking-related crimes will be fitted with electronic sobriety tags that detect if they drink alcohol from today. (Stock image)

Mr Malthouse is also considering introducing gyroscopic tags that can tell whether the wearer is driving a vehicle. These would be used to monitor persistent motoring offenders and other dangerous drivers, such as those caught at more than 100mph.

The tags, which are still in development, would be used to ensure banned or disqualified motorists do not continue to break the law.

Mr Malthouse has already announced plans to force convicted burglars to wear GPS tags that track their movements after their release from jail.

Now, in an expansion of the scheme costing £45million over ten years, he wants to see up to 2,000 sobriety tags in use at any one time. 

Pilot schemes showed 94 per cent compliance. The tags analyse chemicals in the wearer's sweat every 30 minutes and send an alert to probation officers if alcohol is detected.

They are so sensitive they can even differentiate between weaker drinks such as beer and harder ones such as whisky and other spirits.

Any breach would land the offender in court facing tougher penalties including jail time.

An abstinence order can be imposed on over-18s convicted of an alcohol-related disorder, domestic violence or other types of crime such as theft.

It cannot be used against diagnosed alcoholics, who cannot control their drinking.

Alcohol is a factor in 39 per cent of violent crime, and the social and economic cost of alcohol-related offending is put at £21.5billion a year. At the moment courts can only make someone wear a sobriety tag for up to 120 days, but Mr Malthouse is considering expanding this to 12 months.

He said: 'It creates a sense of certainty in the offender's mind that they are in charge of their own destiny, and if they choose to drink it will be detected. There will be a consequence 100 per cent of the time.

'We really need to have a smarter approach to alcohol-related crime.

'We can really have a go at this knotty problem, which has plagued us – particularly some of our smaller market towns, our night-time economy and indeed sits at the heart of so much domestic violence. 

The tags would be used to ensure banned or disqualified motorists do not continue to break the law. (Stock image)

'What a tag allows us to do is have a police officer on the shoulder of every convicted criminal.

'There are other technologies coming that we'd be interested to explore.

'For example, there is a gyroscopic tag that can tell if you're driving. It fits to your ankle and can identify if you're moving your accelerator foot. Those people who instantly lose their licence – for example, if you're done for doing over a ton on the motorway – it would be possible to use tags on them.'

Mr Malthouse added: 'It will be possible to use this kind of tech on somebody who's convicted of driving without insurance twice.' Other possible uses would be for offenders who drive without a licence and repeat drunk drivers.

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