Police chiefs moot drunk tanks idea
Privately run drunk tanks should be considered to tackle soaring levels of alcohol-fuelled disorder, police chiefs have said.
Chief Constable Adrian Lee, the national policing lead on alcohol harm, 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?"
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.
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." He added: "The Government is taking a wide range of action to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder. This includes introducing a ban on alcohol sales below the level of duty plus VAT to tackle the worst cases of very cheap and harmful drink."