In what the government has called a “world first”, serious and prolific offenders known to reoffend after consuming alcohol will be banned from drinking once they are freed from prison.
They will be tagged with devices which monitor alcohol levels in sweat and sound an alarm to alert probation officers if any is detected.
Offenders will either have a licence condition which requires them to go teetotal for up to a year or have their drinking levels monitored because their risk of reoffending increases after heavy consumption.
The tags will first be used on offenders coming out of prison in Wales before they are also applied in England next summer.
Alcohol tags have been available for judges and magistrates to hand down to offenders serving community sentences since last October but this is the first time they have been used on convicted criminals leaving prison.
Alcohol plays a part in 39 per cent of all violent crime in the UK and roughly 20 per cent of offenders supervised by the Probation Service are classed as having an alcohol problem, according to the Ministry of Justice.
About 12,000 offenders will wear such a tag over the next three years, the government department predicted.
Offenders with an alcohol ban on community sentences were found to have stayed sober on 97 per cent of the days they were tagged, and ministers also expect the device to have a significant impact on prison leavers’ drinking habits.
Justice secretary Dominic Raab said: “This innovative technology has been successful in policing community sentences with offenders complying over 97 per cent of the time.
“Rolling the tags out further will help cut alcohol-fuelled crime, which causes untold misery for victims and lands society with a £21 billion bill each year.
“Offenders now have a clear choice. If they don’t work with probation staff to curb their drinking and change their ways, they face being sent back to jail.”
In total, an extra £183 million is being invested in the next three years to almost double the number of people tagged at any one time from around 13,500 this year to approximately 25,000 by 2025.
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