In a move that wouldn’t be out of place in the new Grand Theft Auto game or in the script of a Christopher Nolan Batman film police chiefs and politicains in the UK are considering introducing so called ‘drunk tanks’ to control public drunkenness and disorder.
These vehicles would patrol the high streets providing a temporary holding cell for police officers struggling to cope with the numbers of drunken people filling the streets after the pubs and nightclubs close their doors in a scene not unlike the world depicted by George Orwell in his novel Nineteen-eighty-four.
Chief Constable Adrian Lee, the national policing lead on alcoholharm, said intoxicated individuals should be taken to a cell run by a commercial company and charged for their care the morning after.
Launching a campaign aimed at highlighting alcohol harm, Mr Lee, the head of Northamptonshire Police, said the police service should no longer have to be responsible for the increasing number of revellers who require medical treatment due to excess drinking.
Mr Lee said: “I do not see why the police service or the health service should pick up the duty of care for someone who has chosen to go out and get so drunk that they cannot look after themselves.
“So why don’t we take them to a drunk cell owned by a commercial company and get the commercial company to look after them during the night until they are sober?
“When that is over we will issue them with a fixed penalty and the company will be able to charge them for their care, which would be at quite significant cost and that might be a significant deterrent.”
His comments come amid a Government-wide review of all contracts held by Serco and G4S, two of the country’s biggest private providers of public services.
The audit, triggered by revelations that both firms had overcharged the Government for criminal-tagging contracts, prompted calls for the Ministry of Justice to abandon plans to privatise large chunks of the probation and prison service.
But Mr Lee is not the first to suggest introducing drunk tanks in the UK, with Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Matthew Grove recently mooting the idea in an interview with trade journal Police Professional.
And it follows proposals for increased privatisation of the police service by way of sponsorship – floated earlier this year by Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill.
Mr Lee continued: “We are not the experts on health. It is quite difficult to work out where the best place to put a drunk is. Is it a police station, or do they need to be at a hospital?
“It is a big demand on police but also not the best way of looking after the specific complex duty of care where there is a health demand.
“Accident and emergency departments are under huge pressure nationally, particularly on a Friday and Saturday nights.
“Why should we have drunks clogging up the A&E, causing further problems potentially? Why not put them somewhere safe where you could have private medical staff on hand?”
At the same briefing, Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said intoxicated individuals are “very high risk” and need to be checked every 15 to 30 minutes.
He said: “It is a huge cost on staff and when one of these people tragically dies, the service is quite rightly criticised.”
Mr Lee also said he was disappointed no licensing authorities had imposed late-night levies – an additional charge for late-opening alcohol suppliers designed to contribute towards policing the night-time economy.
And he also criticised the Government for failing to implement the minimum price for a unit of alcohol in England and Wales.
The Government shelved the plans in July amid fears the change would hit responsible drinkers.
A week-long campaign has been launched by police forces highlighting the difficulties faced by those dealing with drunkenness and alcohol-related incidents.
The Alcohol Harm initiative will see forces out on the streets with mobile custody suites and medical triage facilities to deal with the drunk and disorderly.
Neighbourhood policing teams, special constables, police cadets and volunteers such as street pastors will be deployed in drinking hotspots.
And police will be addressing new students at freshers’ weeks on staying safe and providing awareness training on vulnerability with security and bar staff.
There will be age ID checks, drug swabbing and drink-drive operations, while licensing teams will be working with partners conducting test purchasing operations for shops and bars and visiting problem venues.
Nearly 50% of all violent crime is alcohol related, Acpo said, while offenders are thought to be under the influence of alcohol in nearly half of all incidents of domestic abuse andalcohol plays a part in 25 to 33% of known child abuse cases.
Crime prevention minister Jeremy Browne said: “I welcome this campaign to raise awareness of the impact of alcohol-fuelled crime, which costs around £11 billion a year in England and Wales.
“Frontline police officers are all too aware of the drunken behaviour and alcohol-fuelled disorder that can effectively turn towns and cities into no-go areas for law-abiding people, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.”
What do you think?
Courtesy of Press Association
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