Good quality treatment key to making ‘sobriety test’ pilot work

10 February 2012

Swanswell believes that plans to use American-style ‘sobriety tests’ on people convicted of serious drink-related offences will only work, if good quality treatment is offered alongside.

Swanswell, a national charity which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to news today that the Metropolitan police will begin a pilot scheme using a concept first used in the US state of South Dakota.

Sobriety tests will be available as a sentencing option for people convicted of serious drink-related offences such as assault.

Electronic tags will be used to monitor the amount of alcohol in the blood and if alcohol is detected, offenders will swiftly be given a short prison sentence (reported on BBC News). Police hope it’ll act as a strong deterrent against problem alcohol use.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Sometimes it takes a significant event to get a person to seek help and re-arrest may achieve that.

So as long as the pilot scheme includes access to good quality treatment as well as re-arrest, that would be a good thing. Otherwise they’ll fall in to a revolving door of release, re-arrest, release and then re-arrest again – and that won’t work.

If someone’s committed a criminal offence then they’re accountable for their actions – the person commits the crime; alcohol doesn’t. However, it may be a reason behind the offending.

So if they’re serious about getting to the root cause of crime, then they need to tackle the alcohol use alongside the criminal consequences.’

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