What are sobriety tags? How the new system will tackle alcohol-fuelled crime - and if it will be introduced in England

Sobriety tags have been introduced in Wales to reduce the number of alcohol related crimes

Wednesday, 21st October 2020, 1:49 pm

Criminals in Wales who commit alcohol-fuelled crimes can be banned from drinking and ordered to wear a ‘sobriety tag’ by judges from today (Wednesday 21 October).

The scheme – which will be extended to England early next year – aims to tackle the root cause of criminal behaviour and to reduce reoffending.

Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart said: "Alcohol can have a devastating impact on lives and figures show it is a key factor behind far too many crimes.

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(Photo: Shutterstock)
(Photo: Shutterstock)

“I am encouraged to see Wales at the forefront of implementing this new technology, which we believe will contribute towards lowering reoffending rates, making our streets safer and supporting those who need help.”

Here is everything you need to know.

How do the tags work?

Far from simply monitoring an offender’s location or alerting authorities to when they might be in the area of an establishment that serves alcohol, the tags actually use a more high-tech solution.

They monitor offenders’ sweat every 30 minutes, and alert the probation service if alcohol is consumed. The tags can distinguish between drinks and other types of alcohol – such as hand sanitiser or perfume.

The tags, which work 24/7, will also alert staff when they have been tampered with, and can tell if someone tries to block contact between the tag and their skin.

From a rehabilitation standpoint, the sobriety tags will be backed up by targeted professional support, signposting offenders to the help they need to improve their lifestyle and rein in their drinking.

The Ministry of Justice says referrals to treatment will continue to be made for “those with more serious alcohol addictions who commit crimes.”

What is an alcohol abstinence order?

If the wearer is not complying with their alcohol abstinence order they could land back in court for further sentencing or fines.

Alcohol abstinence orders are new powers allowing courts to issue drinking bans for up to 120 days.

The Ministry of Justice has said it is looking at whether they should be able to last longer as part of its sentencing reforms.

What difference will they make?

Alcohol is a factor in around 39% of violent crime, with the social and economic cost of alcohol-related harm stretching to over £21 billion per year. It is seen as one of the driving influencers of domestic violence and unprovoked attacks on strangers.

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.”

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.

When will the tags come to England?

The Government has not yet confirmed when the scheme could be rolled out in other areas of the UK, including England.

The Ministry of Justice has so far only said that the tags will be coming to England, “early next year.”