Acpo issues 'drunk tanks' call to tackle disorder


Chief Constable Adrian Lee says public money is being used irresponsibly

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Privately-run "drunk tanks" should be considered to tackle alcohol-fuelled disorder, police chiefs have said.

Under the idea, drunks who are a danger to themselves would be put in cells to sober up and then pay for their care.

The Association of Chief Police Officers, which is launching a campaign on alcohol harm to coincide with university freshers' season, said problem drinking was on the increase.

The Police Federation said the plan was "neither a viable nor long-term" fix.

Start Quote

This proposal throws up far more questions than answers, particularly with regards to accountability”

End Quote Steve White Police Federation of England and Wales

Northamptonshire Chief Constable Adrian Lee, who leads on the issue of problem drinking for Acpo in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, told the BBC that police cells were not the best places for people who had got so drunk they were "incapable of looking after themselves".

Nor should the taxpayer have to pick up the bill for people's drunkenness, he said.

"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."

'Sticking plaster'

Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Grove also recently raised the idea of introducing drunk tanks.

"Public services are a finite resource and we need to appreciate that," he said in an interview with the trade journal Police Professional.

An Acpo spokeswoman said the measure would only apply to those drunks who were a danger to themselves - those who had committed a crime would be taken to a police cell, while those who were ill would be taken to hospital.

Every Saturday night, police mop up drunken behaviour and dump people on paramedics and hospitals - all at huge cost. But once the police leave the scene, there's nothing to stop anyone walking away, assuming of course they're actually capable of doing so.

So while the idea of a place where alcopop-fuelled drunkards could crash out and wake up to a bill for enforced bed-and-breakfast looks compelling, it's just not clear how it could work in practice and in law.

Police only have limited powers to detain you - and your time in custody must be necessary and the reasons for it clear.

So where exactly, in legal terms, would people be held and under what power?

Clever lawyers could argue that time spent sobering up in a drunk tank amounted to false imprisonment and that would give the police a headache as bad as the detainee's hangover.

She said the police could not walk away from a drunk who was unable to stand as they had a duty of care but it was not the best use of police resources. As there is currently no formal proposal, Acpo did not have any details on cost or implementation.

Steve White, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents officers, said he would favour "any measure that frees up police officer time and gets them back on to the streets".

But he said: "This proposal throws up far more questions than answers, particularly with regards to accountability.

"Privately-operated drunk tanks are neither a viable nor long-term solution to binge drinking and merely represent a sticking plaster for the problem."

Start Quote

They [the police] are back on the street, where they can do the most good”

End Quote Chuck Rose Santa Barbara Sobering Center

The phrase drunk tank is an export from the US, where they are already in operation. Chuck Rose runs the Santa Barbara Sobering Center in California, which is paid for by the city council.

He said the centre's work helped the police "immensely".

"If they bring somebody and check them into our establishment, they are with us about five minutes and we take it from there," he said.

"If they have to take someone to jail, it's an hour-and-a-half of paperwork. They [the police] are back on the street, where they can do the most good."

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, and alcohol plays a part in 25% to 33% of known child abuse cases.

Ch Insp Sue Robinson, deputy chairwoman of Acpo's alcohol harm reduction group, said: "When we should be working in local communities tackling priorities set for us, we are more than likely to be addressing drunkenness and alcohol-related crime and disorder."

'Small aspect'

The In Focus: Alcohol Harm campaign launched by Mr Lee, which will include drink-drive operations, visits to disorder "hotspots" and talks to new university students, is intended to highlight the difficulties police face in dealing with drunk people.

A woman sitting on the pavement as three police officers stand by The so-called drunk tanks are aimed at those who are a danger to themselves

Mr Lee said he was disappointed no licensing authorities had imposed charges for late-opening alcohol suppliers to help pay for policing the night-time economy, and by the government's failure to bring in a minimum price for a unit of alcohol in England and Wales.

The plans were shelved in July amid fears the change would hit responsible drinkers.

Crime Prevention Minister Jeremy Browne said: "The government is taking a wide range of action to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder. This includes introducing a ban on the worst cases of very cheap and harmful alcohol sales.

"We have given local areas the power to restrict the sale of alcohol in the early hours and ensure those who profit from a late night licence help pay towards the costs of policing."

Labour's shadow crime and security minister Diana Johnson urged caution over potential private sector involvement, in the wake of the government's discovery that two of the biggest private providers of public services - Serco and G4S - had overcharged it by tens of millions of pounds for criminal-tagging contracts.

She also said the idea of drunk tanks "could and should only be one small aspect of any proper alcohol strategy".

"The government's alcohol policy is out of touch and in disarray - dropping their minimum alcohol pricing policy, rejecting drugs and alcohol education in schools, and going ahead with an ineffective late night levy," she added.


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  • Comment number 240.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    "148. Money

    Nothing with drinking anything too many laws in GB
    I drink 13 pints in a day and smoke 40 cigarettes and I am on £100k a year"....

    That's funny, yesterday on HYS about the removal of veils, you were a strict Muslim who's wife wore a niqab.

    You really are a pathetic person.

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Disrespect ie, being a nuisance due to drink, no matter how much was consumed should be clamped down on. If that means the individual concerned pays then so be it. Top idea by the police chiefs!

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Make the drinks industry pay the policing they are to blame making alcohol cheaper than water. The goverment could help clean up our citys and towns by intoducing minimum prices. and getting rid of 24 hour drinking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    "137.Sue Doughcoup
    Quite right too. Hopefully this is the start for charging for all self-inflicted conditions including hospital treatments"

    How exactly do you define self-inflicted condition?

    Who determines what is "self-inflicted" and what is accident?

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    Perhaps The Liberator could have her Jobseekers Allowance cut by £30 if that is what she can afford to spend on drink using tax payers money, and how much tax does she pay as her contribution to the State, it sounds like a one way traffic on the cash front.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    When they kick out your front door how you gonna come? With your hands on your head or on the trigger of your gun?

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    I like the idea about making them pay - seems very fair to me!

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    So a policeman will judge that you are drunk and disorderly and then forcibly take you to a holding facility run by a private contractor for profit, and then you are held there until you pay for your stay?

    No, I can't see that system being abused at all, no sir.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    This country plies you with cheap drink, cos it's our higher culture, you see. Gotta prove you're one of us.
    Now if you don't get robbed on our dangerous streets, the old bill want to mug you. Enough, I'm going sharia.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Why spend money looking after them?

    If they fall down drunk in the gutter, leave them there.

    If they die there - the Darwin Awards get another page to write.

    Either way, it's their decision, and should not be at my expense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    I think this is an excellent idea. Why should the public purse continually pay out for people who don't take responsibility for their actions. My granddaughter is a trainee medic and I dread to think what she will come across when she qualifies and quite frankly the cost of medical help should be reserve for people who genuinely deserve it and not out -of- control drunks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    D&D properly policed is enough. Dedicated holding pens for drunks who are a danger to themselves should be staffed by medical personell, and the drunk should have to pay for the care.
    Normal people stopped going out in the evening years ago because of the asb problem. It's time to reclaim the streets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    30 years ago our Police Superintendant told us we could not expect a Police officer on every corner and that we had to put disturbance and minor damage to gardens and cars down to "youthful exuberance" . Is the state of disorder which has been allowed to develop any surprise ? Not long after making that statement he retired, to France

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    What is the projected cost for the organisation which has to be created to 'collect' the cost?

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    @211 Icebloo
    The US prison population has far more to do with the drug and gang culture than the fact that private companies run jails, they do not run the judiciary who determine the sentences
    We have seen how inept a lot of public sector departments are with inefficiencies, poor management and a lack of accountability - why would you want them running our electric, gas and phone lines?

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Excellent idea, but as pointed out by others, if a private company were to do the arresting then anyone slightly worse for wear would be fair game, that would be wrong, however if the police arrested them and then passed them over to the drunk tank then it would work. BUT i suspect the pc lawyers would start to find a way round this and whole new world of claims would be unleashed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    To those suggesting early closing or minimum Alcohopl prices - I think this attitude stinks, the idea that all must be penalised because a few idiots can't control themselves. Far better to target the idiots - hard.

    I've seen three successive pubs closed down due to violence - each time the scum just moved on, nobody tackled them, instead they assumed the pub was to blame and punished everybody.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    this has long been overdue. wonder why it has not been implemented all these years.
    the towncentres have become no go zone on friday/saturday nights. this should improve the situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Just in case you don't know, ahmed is a troll.


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