Are 'drunk tanks' really the answer for binge drinkers?
Police chiefs suggest drunk and disorderly spend night in privately-run cell and pay £400 to leave
POLICE chiefs are hailing "drunk tanks" as a way to deter excessive drinking and free up officers' time. But critics say the idea throws up more questions than answers.
Under the proposal, drunks behaving badly would be detained in privately-run cells until they sober up and then charged £400 to leave, as well as face a fine for being drunk and disorderly.
Adrian Lee, chief constable of Northamptonshire Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman on tackling alcohol problems, says he cannot see why the police or 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".
He criticised the government for failing to implement a minimum price for a unit of alcohol in England and Wales and said the drunk tank charge plus fixed penalty might act as a "significant deterrent".
The idea has won support from several police and crime commissioners, who are keen to tackle alcohol-related problems and reduce police budgets. The Daily Telegraph says it costs the taxpayer £300-£400 a night to keep someone in a police cell, more than "a night in the Ritz hotel".
Alastair Campbell, former New Labour spin doctor, took to Twitter this morning to support the proposal, saying the costs of alcohol misuse are too high for the government not to act.
This chief constable Adrian Lee is talking TOTAL SENSE on @bbcbreakfast Costs of alcohol misuse too high for govt to do nothing
— Alastair Campbell (@campbellclaret) September 18, 2013
But Steve White, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents rank-and-file officers, told the BBC the proposal "throws up far more questions than answers" particularly over 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," he said.
Several tweeters this morning lamented what they saw as yet another step towards the privatisation of the police. "Maybe Carlsberg could sponsor it with their logo on each drunk tank door," suggested one. "Maybe Anadin would buy in too."
Some pointed to previous mistakes made by G4S, which provides a range of police support services in the UK. One tweeter raised concerns that a private company might be driven to "trawl for customers" for profit.
Pay for your own detention in a *drunk tank*?That won't lead to trawling for customers, unfair arrest, for profit. At. All. #bbcbreakfast
— TheRealThunderChild (@ThunderAtSea) September 18, 2013
Others questioned how drunk people would be differentiated from those who had had their drinks spiked or had a medical problem.
How will a privately operated drunk tank distinguish between someone who is just drunk and someone who needs medical attention?
— Richard (@RichardBrennan) September 18, 2013
Lee insists police are not health experts and that private medical staff would be a better option than a police cell. "It is quite difficult to work out where the best place to put a drunk is," he says. "Is it the police station, or do they need a hospital? Why should we have drunks clogging up A&E, causing further problems potentially? Why not put them somewhere safe where you could have private medical staff on hand?" ·