Belfast Telegraph

Why the banks of rich will swell along with the 'drunk tanks'

By Grace Dent

Obviously, I love the Association of Chief Police Officers' call for £400-a-night "drunk tanks" – having passed the point in life, I hope, when I'll ever need one.

"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?" Acpo's Adrian Lee said.

"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 might be a significant deterrent."

So, yes, hooray for Adrian. Or at least, I think.

There's a point in a young woman's life when marauding the town centre on a Saturday evening, three sheets to the wind, can be enormously appealing.

This diminishes with years, until, by one's late 30s, one would cheerfully have the local strip of fun pubs grassed over and replaced with a big yoga mat.

Nowadays, when I see characters like Charlotte Crosby from MTV's Geordie Shore, I witness her proud delight in regularly getting off her scone and wonder if it's really the job of the health service to hold their noses and fix them up. Or, if it's the police's job to taxi them home?

In fact, would a couple of £400 fines work as a reminder to perhaps stop drinking before any shred of dignity has departed?

Of course, Charlotte would be at perfect liberty to remind me that my generation swallowed tons of ecstasy, speed and acid, then menaced the motorways between home and nightclub and invented the term 'ladette' to denote a woman who goes out and gets hammered like a man.

Charlotte could argue the only major difference between today and yesteryear is that in 2013 we're more likely to see drunks as a money-making opportunity.

Just imagine the revenue that could be totted up if the police could dispatch special constables who were as vigilant – and as bloody infuriating at times – as traffic wardens to round up drunks at £400-a-go?

It's bad enough trying to argue – while stone-cold sober and perfectly in the right – that your front tyre wasn't 5mm onto a yellow line. How do you prove you're not very, very drunk and harming anyone without shouting: "I am not bloody drunk. I'm not going to the drunk tank. This is a conspiracy to make money."

Which already, let's face it, sounds like the clarion cry of the completely stoned. And imagine how much health service funding could be slashed if statistics then said that, in the light of these drunk tanks' success, A&Es were empty of a weekend?

And, more pressing than all of this for me is, who exactly will be staffing these privately-run overnight cells for the inebriated aside from, I'll take a guess here, people not quite professional and qualified enough to be actual, official Government-regulated policemen, or nurses?

Okay, this is starting to sound like the ominous beginnings of an Eli Roth movie. And bearing in mind that £400 is a wedge of money – in fact it's exactly what a night in a drab motel, a consultation with a private nurse and some taxi expenses might cost – how will they extract it from the low-waged afterwards?

I'm guessing via court fines, bailiffs and, if all else fails, punishment by prison.

I shall watch the ensuing booze-related chaos with interest, just not at midnight on Saturday, when I shall be sound asleep in bed.

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