The Mayor of London's 'Compulsory Sobriety Pilot' has been extended for a further six months, following a 'successful' trial in four London boroughs. Launched by Boris Johnson in 2014, the scheme tested use of 'sobriety tags' as an option for certain alcohol-related offences.
The 12 month pilot saw 111 people in the south London boroughs of Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Sutton issued with “alcohol abstinence monitoring requirement” (AAMR) orders and fitted with the ankle tags. 91% of offenders reportedly reached the mandated 120-day period without breaching the order.
In the pilot AAMRs were an option for alcohol offences such as drink driving, resisting arrest, assault or criminal damage. Domestic Violence offences were excluded, and AMMRs were not offered to dependent drinkers. All offenders reportedly received a brief intervention.
National roll out?
The extension of the scheme will 'enable time for decisions to be made on the roll out of the Alcohol Abstinence Monitoring Requirement (AAMR) across London' - but could end up national. A commitment to 'make sobriety orders available to all courts in England and Wales, enforced through new alcohol monitoring tags' was the was only firm alcohol pledge in the Conservative election manifesto.
The final evaluation of the initial 12 month pilot is due to be released in October, although a 6 month interim report [pdf] was produced. In 2012 the Home Office had piloted a similar 'Sobriety Conditional Cautioning' scheme across five areas, but only ten offenders took part.
The transdermal tags used are an ankle bracelet that detect any alcohol naturally secreted from the drinker's sweat, taking a reading every 30 minutes. The tags have been used in Scotland as part of research looking at the impact on students who volunteered to stop drinking. Those that wore the tags were significantly more likely to stick to abstinence than those who were not being monitored.
When the scheme was first mooted in 2010, it drew sharp criticism from the Guardian but later received a "cautious welcome" from Alcohol Concern, who stated that the pilot should offer sobriety testing as part of a "wider regime" of support rather than punishment.