The thing that I really hate (well, one of them) about this coalition government is that we seem to have something very much like Labour.
It’s like you just need to pick & choose the most unpalatable parts of both parties platforms and merge them together.
With the Tories, you may get sound economics, but you get authoritarian social policies.
With the Lib Dems, you may get (sometimes crazily) liberal social policies, but you also get the economics of Keynes.
With the coalition, we seem to have Keynesian Authoritarianism.
graduate tax student loans with higher interest rates for the most successful? And redemption penalties for those that pay off early?
And in terms of authoritarianism, it’s hard to imagine even the puritans of New Labour coming up with this latest wheeze.
The ”24/7 sobriety” programme involves people paying to be tested for alcohol twice a day after being convicted of drink-related crime, and appearing in court to face the prospect of a jail sentence if they fail.
Oh aye? Can you say AlcoBO?
It has already been implemented in the US, with the state of South Dakota reporting a 14 per cent drop in the prison population as a result, according to Deputy Mayor of London Kit Malthouse.
He said he would like to pilot the scheme in the capital in 2011, subject to government approval.
He described London as having a "disproportionate problem" with alcohol where almost twice as much alcohol-related crime is committed compared with the rest of England.
Sooo.. you’re going to try this out in London are you? Based on a scheme hailing from the country with the most twisted attitude to alcohol of any Western nation? And from a state that no-one ever goes to, and is riddled with po-faced religionists.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well, I’ve been thinking about this and the list is pretty long. Because while you can bet this ruse has been conjured up to tackle a hard core few persistent drunken troublemakers, it never turns out that way, does it?
"The advantage of this is it is not just punitive but corrective," he told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.
Corrective? Do go on…
"It may be that it is used as an alternative to prison or conjunctive to prison."
Mr Malthouse said that current methods such as counselling did not work to discourage persistent offenders and that some needed a "more rigorous approach".
He added: "If you ask the police there are some people who cause trouble every Saturday night."
Ah yes, as I said.. it’s aimed at a hardcore minority.
Mr Malthouse said the American version of the scheme had a 99 per cent compliance rate and that it was "of no cost to the tax payer", because the people taking part paid a dollar per alcohol test. He described it as a ”cheaper and more cost-effective” alternative to prison.
Yes yes.. and for those who have committed serious enough crimes to warrant prison, perhaps this sanction has a place.
Sure, it’ll start that way, with such good intentions as pave the way to hell. But, sooner or later…
End up in front of the beak for a spot of drunk & disorderly? £100 fine, £40 costs and an AlcoBO. You’re ordered to be dry for 12 months.
Wanna bet it couldn’t happen? Wanna bet innocent and legitimate photographers could never possibly be harassed by the police under abusive invocations of our Anti-terrorism laws? No.. that already happens, of course.
Back to booze laws then. Ask drinkers in Crawley who have experienced the zero-tolerance approach, by the police and their plastic pals, to even genial and mild drunkenness of a Friday night.
This is the next logical step for the zealots, and you can bet the swelling ranks of hypocrites and puritans infesting this country will rub their hands together with glee, egging on the police and courts to take ever more radical action, against ever more trivial infractions.
Now to the reasons why this scheme is just as likely to be both unjust and unworkable, as it is to be implemented with relish by the drones and collaborators of the state.
It has the potential to be unjust in at least a couple of ways.
The first is that this will be implemented under the guise of preventing or punishing behaviour for which criminal sanctions already exist– Public Order Act , Offences Against The Person Act etc etc, and if these offences were properly dealt with, the need for this sweeping new power would cease to exist. So what exactly is this proposed law for? Probably to make life easier for the police, who are, obviously, never known to overstep the bounds of their authority, or to use their powers injudiciously.
The second is that, similar to the ASBO, it would criminalise an act which is, in itself, perfectly legal. I.e. drinking alcohol. To completely ban a person from consuming alcohol is a serious infringement of the rights of the individual.
Consider the eventuality I describe above, of these orders being handed out rather more freely than Kit Malthouse would care to admit.
Now, hand one of these orders to an alcoholic, say. One who holds down a job and lives a relatively untroubled life in terms of brushes with the law. What have you just done? Oh yes, you’ve said to someone addicted to a legal substance, ‘I will put you in prison each time you have a fix’. And will the alcoholic get the help and support he would need for this undertaking of sobriety? Not likely.
Next, a reason why the scheme is impractical and unworkable. They want to test people for alcohol twice a day? How?
Consider the pilot of this scheme, in London, with its highly transient population, as well as a million or more commuters who come from all over the country on a daily basis, not to mention the tourists.
Would they effectively want people to report to a police station for a breathalyser test twice a day? in London? For a year? Or perhaps they could be more sly than that and enforce blood tests and other invasive medical tests weekly or monthly, so that they could detect alcohol consumption?
Oh wait – there’s the massively expensive technology solution! Someone, somewhere must be building a breathalyser, that includes a GPS tag and cellular technology, so the recipient of the order has to self report, in real time. But how would those monitoring know who was blowing into the thing? No.. thats obviously gonna need more thought. Perhaps build DNA testing of saliva into the unit? Sounds cheap.
Sadly, the outcome of London’s pilot will be that the scheme failed because it was too localised. A projection would show how very successful the scheme would have been, if there was a national database and cross-county co-operation.
So even though the scheme will prove to be calamitously expensive, unjust and unworkable, it will be rolled out nationally on the basis of these finding.
If you look back at the last quote from Malthouse, above, it bears repeating:
it was "of no cost to the tax payer", because the people taking part paid a dollar per alcohol test.
Of no cost… no way. Not here, with the multi-million pound IT system, the gold-plated legislation, the enforcement teams, the medics, the courts, the prison places, the lawyers, the cases being defended in the the European Courts of Human Rights.