Just over a month ago the Government yet again snubbed the Mayor of London over his proposals for a pilot sobriety scheme, whereby the courts could impose on offenders, whose offences were alcohol-related, a requirement that they be compulsorily tested for alcohol daily for a three months period with a positive test meaning arrest and appearance again in court.
But now – either because they have finally listened to the overwhelming force of arguments coming from all corners of the House of Lords or because they want to provide a helpful headline to the Mayor prior to the Mayoral elections in seven weeks time – the Government has performed an 180° u-turn. They have now tabled an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill that will enable the courts to impose sobriety orders as part of a suspended or community sentence.
Offenders would have to wear ankle tags that continuously monitor alcohol levels, for up to four months. The orders would allow alcohol levels to be monitored either by these tags which test sobriety every half hour, or by requiring offenders to attend a police station daily – or at other regular intervals – to be breathalysed.
Of course, the other advantage from the Government’s point of view is that it saves a lengthy debate on a Bill that is already taking much more time to progress through its various stages in the House than expected. And what is more it avoids the certainty of another defeat for the Government to add to the nine they have already had on the Bill so far in the Lords.
It is really a case of Healey’s Law: when in a hole, stop digging.