Alcohol awareness course ‘not a get-out-of-jail free card’

Offenders who make “one bad decision” through the effects of excessive drinking are being given the chance to save themselves from collecting a criminal record.

Jun 7, 2018
By Nick Hudson
Course or court?: First-time offenders getting opportunity to miss out on an appearance before magistrates

People taken into custody after committing low-level crimes will be offered an alcohol diversion course rather than face court.

Gwent Police’s new scheme – similar to the speed awareness course for drivers – will see offenders given the option to pay £46.50 for a two-hour educational session.

The force said it does not have a definitive list of crimes the interactive course would be offered for, but attendees will be taught about the long-term effects of alcohol and how to avoid behaviour that is likely to get them on the wrong side of the law.

The course is aimed at cutting reoffending and breaking the cycle at the start, by focusing on the effects of excessive drinking not just on the individual but on their family, friends and the local community.

The course will be offered “with discretion” and aimed primarily at first-time offenders or those who commit low level crimes while drunk.

Attendance will not show up on criminal record checks – but those who take the option will not be offered the course again if they go on to reoffend. 

Chief Inspector Richard Blakemore said: ”The Alcohol Diversion Project is a key aspect of the wider strategy which will help us tackle alcohol problems within Gwent.

“The focus of this initiative is education. When people consume substantial amounts of alcohol, individuals can act out of character, we want to help those who make one bad decision not make the same mistake twice.

“We strongly believe this will help to reduce drunken incidents on our streets and make our communities safer.”

The courses will be run by the TTC Group – which already offers speed awareness and drinking driving courses for police forces in England and Wales.

Director of client services Sharon Haynes said: “The course has been designed to educate people to help ensure they don’t continue to make the same mistakes.

“Many people will never have been in trouble before so, working with the police forces, we want to look at how we can educate them to make sure they don’t reoffend.

“There will also be an opportunity to formulate a plan for behavioural change whilst further sources of help and support will be readily available.”

It’s hoped the courses – which will be held in Newport, Cardiff, Swansea, Bridgend and Caerphilly – will free up time for officers on the front line and save money.

Topics covered include the longer-term effects of drinking, the impact on community safety, the potential risks to attendees and others in alcohol-fuelled situations, how to identify risk situations, and the units of alcohol in drinks.

Gwent police and crime commissioner Jeff Cuthbert said: “Crime as a result of alcohol, no matter how minor, can significantly impact upon not just an individual’s life but the lives of many in the local community.

“This programme is not a ‘get out of jail free card’ but an opportunity for those who have made one silly mistake to take responsibility for their actions and reduce their chances of reoffending.”

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