People who break the law, where alcohol has been a factor in the offence that is before the court, may be made to wear tags that can detect whether or not they have been drinking.

Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring Requirements will be available as part of community orders (or suspended sentence orders) with effect from 31st July 2014

This will initially be piloted in the South London Justice area (comprising Croydon, Lambeth, Southwark and Sutton).

Orders will be enforced by means of a transdermal electronic tag. These are tags fitted around the ankle of an offender that measure the level of alcohol in an offender’s sweat at set points throughout a 24 hour period. The tag provides data to a central monitoring point where it is then analysed to check for compliance. If there are indications that a breach has occurred or should be considered, then the enforcement authority is advised accordingly.

There are four conditions that must be satisfied before such an order can be made:

  1. That consumption of alcohol must be an element of the offence before the court, or the court must be satisfied that consumption of alcohol was a contributing factor to the commission of the offence.
  2. The court must be satisfied that the offender is not dependent on alcohol.
  3. The court must not include an alcohol treatment requirement (under section 212 of the Criminal Justice Act ) in the order.
  4. The court must have been notified by the Secretary of State that arrangements for monitoring have been made in the local justice area.

A court has the power to order an offender, either to abstain from consuming alcohol for a specified period, or not to consume alcohol so that during a specified period they have a level of alcohol no higher than that specified by the order in their body.

An offender, on whom such a requirement is imposed, would have to submit to monitoring to ascertain whether they were complying with the requirement.

The maximum period of the new requirement is limited to 120 days.

The tags are widely used in the US,  where authorities claim it has a success rate above 95% as well as reducing re-offending and domestic violence.

Depending on the success of the pilot in the South London Justice area, which will last a year, the use of "alcohol tagging" may well be extended to other parts of the country.