The government has announced plans to expand the use of alcohol monitoring tags. These are fitted to offenders who commit crimes influenced or fuelled by alcohol. The Ministry of Justice estimates that these tags will monitor 12,000 offenders by 2025, with the government allocating £183 million to the task.

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What are alcohol tags?

Alcohol tags – also known as sobriety tags – are devices that monitor a person’s sweat every 30 minutes to test for the presence of alcohol. Judges and magistrates can order an offender who has committed a crime influenced or fuelled by alcohol to wear a sobriety tag for up to 120 days. If alcohol is detected, the Probation Service is alerted. The offender can then be returned to court for breaching the order and re-sentenced for their original offence.

The use of alcohol tags in England and Wales

Alcohol tags were first introduced in Wales in October 2020. The scheme was deemed a success, prompting the tags to be rolled out in England in March 2021. Since then, over 3,100 alcohol tags have been fitted, with 97% of offenders remaining sober. Now the government wishes to expand the use of electronic monitoring tags, both for those being released from prison and those serving their sentence in the community.

GPS monitoring equipment will also be deployed across 19 police forces. It will be used to monitor the whereabouts of certain offenders following their release from prison.

The role of alcohol in crime

In a crime survey for England and Wales, 39% of victims of serious offences believed that alcohol had played a factor in the incident. It is estimated that around 20% of offenders supervised by the Probation Service have an issued with alcohol. It is also thought to play a major role in domestic violence and unprovoked attacks on strangers. The government hopes that the use of alcohol tags will help probation officers identify those in need of alcohol misuse support. Some offenders will be tagged on release.

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