London

'24/7 sobriety' or jail scheme may be piloted in London

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Media captionFrom breath test to jail - how the 24/7 Sobriety Programme works

A scheme which sees convicted offenders locked up if they fail daily breath tests has been suggested as a way to tackle alcohol-related crime in London.

The 24/7 Sobriety Programme which is used in South Dakota in the USA, could work for the capital, deputy mayor Kit Malthouse said.

In the US offenders pay $1 (63p) each for two tests a day. If they fail they face a judge and could be jailed.

Alcohol Concern says "coercing people into sobriety" will not help offenders.

Punishment 'certain'

Mr Malthouse, who is London's deputy for policing, said: "In the rest of the country we have eight (alcohol-related) crimes per 1,000, in London it's 12.

"One of the things that makes it work is the fact that punishment is kind of certain. You put the fate of the criminal in their own hands. As long as they are sober, they stay free.

"But if they do drink, they know for certain that they are going to be incarcerated."

He added that the scheme would work alongside the courts with the aim of providing a period of "enforced sobriety" post-release to tackle what he described as a "huge re-offending rate".

"We are not necessarily seeing this as a solution for alcoholics but for dealing with those people who are persistently drunk, who are often violent and cause a problem in our city and town centres."

A spokeswoman from the Mayor of London's press office said anyone who had committed an alcohol-related crime could be expected to take breath tests as part of the scheme.

The programme, which according to the authorities in South Dakota has had a 99.6% compliance rate and resulted in the prison population falling by 14%, could be piloted as soon as next year if new legislation is not required.

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: "The real issue we need to actually address is why people are drinking the way they are.

"We already have schemes called alcohol offence referral schemes where the police, once they have picked somebody up for a crime, refer them on to an alcohol service where that person receives some advice, support and even counselling if needed.

"I don't think you can stop it until you cure it.

"I think Kit's approach is to try and coerce people into sobriety and my approach, I think is a much better approach, where you coerce people into support and treatment because these people have a problem with alcohol and and that problem will not disappear once they leave prison."

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