Sobriety tags have helped cut drink-related crimes in Lincolnshire says independent report

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A project which used ‘sobriety tags’ to tackle alcohol-fueled crime in Lincolnshire has been a success, according to a report by the National Centre for Social Research.

The scheme, funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones and the Ministry of Justice, used the latest alcohol monitoring technology, also known as ‘sobriety tags’, to tackle alcohol associated offending.

Magistrates’ and Crown Courts were able to require offenders to wear the tags by executing an Alcohol Abstinence Monitoring Requirement (AAMR) as part of community or suspended sentence imposed on those who commit crimes while under the influence of alcohol.

The ankle bracelets, which detect alcohol levels in the wearer’s sweat, alerted the authorities when someone has breached the abstinence order and the offender was returned to court.

The review of the project, which also took place in Humberside and Yorkshire, carried out by the research centre (NatCen) noted that:

• Over the course of the pilot, 226 individuals were issued the AAMR order. These individuals were predominantly white (98 per cent) and male (88 per cent). Almost all (96 per cent) wearers were under 50 years old.

• Half (52 per cent) of wearers were sentenced in Lincolnshire, one-third (33 per cent) in Humberside and 13 per cent in North Yorkshire at the time of receiving the AAMR order.

• Alcohol is a significant factor in offending in the pilot areas, particularly in domestic violence cases and 31 per cent of wearers were convicted of a domestic violence offence.

• Compliance with the AAMR was high, 94 per cent successfully completed the requirement and 97.4 per cent of all the days monitored were free of alcohol.

The scheme is already being rolled out across the country at a cost of £22m.

In Lincolnshire it is estimated that alcohol played a part in 25 per cent of all offences reported and the figures are even worse in domestic abuse cases involving alcohol, at more than 40 per cent.

One offender claimed that the wearing of a tag gave him three months sobriety in which his life changed forever as it gave him the space he needed to seek help for his issues.

The pilot was carried out in the county for two years and managed by Humberside, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (HLNY CRC) with support from Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, the Crown Prosecution Service, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The initial evaluation report has now been published and NatCen has now been commissioned to undertake a further study of the effect on offenders’ behaviour and reoffending rates.

PCC Marc Jones said: “Re-offending rates are much higher for people where alcohol plays a role in the offence, by tackling that we can reduce the likelihood of them re-offending.

“The aim of the project is to reduce the victims of crime in the future, particularly victims of domestic abuse. The project has given rehabilitation agencies a real opportunity to work with the offender and get them to recognise and change their behaviour, hopefully for good.

“I am delighted the initial findings are so positive and look forward to seeing further reports on the outcomes later this year.”

Lead on the pilot’s implementation Becky Bailey, Community Director for the Humberside Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company, said: “The pilot was an excellent example of partnership working and shows what can be achieved when Criminal Justice organisations collaborate to support the delivery of new interventions to reduce reoffending.

“Case managers have had feedback from offenders that probation support, together with the discipline involved in working with the requirement and alcohol tag, have helped them commit to lasting change. This is fantastic as when people make sustained and positive changes to their lives we help to reduce reoffending and prevent future victims of crime.”

Justice Minister Chris Philp MP said: “Alcohol-fuelled crimes put a huge strain on frontline services and costs the taxpayer billions of pounds each year.

“Whilst prison will always be the right place for serious criminals, harnessing innovative technologies like alcohol tags can not only punish offenders but also help turn their lives around.

“That is why we’re committed to rolling these tags out nationwide – to reduce reoffending and ultimately create fewer victims.”