No Manx trial for ‘sobriety bands’

Juan Watterson MHK

Juan Watterson MHK

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Trials with no-alcohol electronic tags being run in the UK are unlikely to be repeated in the Isle of Man.

Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson MHK, whose department is in charge of the police, prisons and law and order, said at the moment it was unlikely to be practical for the Isle of Man to get involved.

‘The island has had a tagging contract in the past which proved to be too expensive to be worthwhile.

‘I think, per day, it was actually more expensive than prison,’ he said.

‘However, as technology marches on and costs come down we will undoubtedly take more interest in it but we are unlikely to get involved in trialling this sort of tag.’

In a pilot scheme to be run in London for a year, people who repeatedly commit crimes while drunk can be required to wear one of the tags which can operate for up to four months monitoring the wearer’s perspiration and assessing it for alcohol content. A similar scheme was trialled for some years in Scotland but was not adopted. The so-called sobriety bands are used widely in America.

The scheme in London was launched by mayor Boris Johnson and will be used to address persistent offenders who are subject to a court ban on drinking. If they breach the ban it can be quickly detected and they can then be brought back before the court.

At least once an hour the tag connects to the internet and sends a reading back to the probation office. The London trial is relatively small, running in only four boroughs and affecting 100 to 150 offenders, none of whom will be alcohol dependent.

Despite changes in the law in the Isle of Man to allow the tagging of offenders, no system was put in place until 2005 after problems were encountered with suppliers and companies monitoring the devices.

Though the scheme was run for some years in the island it has since been discontinued. Proposals in the UK have also included tags which incorporate GPS to monitor an offender’s precise whereabouts.

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