Thursday, 7 July 2016

Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring Requirement

Courts can ban you from drinking alcohol

Back in 2012 Parliament passed a law called the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012. This made a lot of changes, very few of them to the benefit of people accused of a crime.

Among the many things LASPO did was to introduce Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring Requirement to England and Wales as part of a Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order. The idea of compulsory sobriety schemes comes from the USA where they are used as a way to tackle high level alcohol related crime, such as drink driving and violence. The British model is based on one used in South Dakota but with some differences. There the alcohol abstinence order is paired with education aimed at changing an offender’s behaviour. In Britain, the alcohol abstinence order will not be accompanied by any particular education scheme. You might think that opting out of the cost of education is doing the job on the cheap and thus far less likely to be as successful as that in South Dakota, but we couldn’t possibly comment.

Before a court imposes an Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring Requirement they must establish that the defendant satisfied four conditions:
1.       Consumption of alcohol by the offender is an element of the offence before the court OR consumption of alcohol by the offender was a factor that contributed to the commission of the offence.
2.       The defendant must not be dependent upon alcohol.
3.       If the court imposes an alcohol treatment requirement it must not impose an Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring Requirement as well.
4.       The court has been notified by the Secretary of State that arrangements for monitoring of the kind to be specified are available in the local justice area.

We have emphasised the words “by the offender” because experience suggests there will be some prosecutors and some courts who will attempt to impose one of these orders where the defendant was not drinking but others were.

Once satisfied that the four conditions are met the court can impose an Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring Requirement that lasts for a maximum of 120 days. The order will require an offender to abstain from consuming alcohol throughout a specified period or prevent him consuming so much alcohol that the level of alcohol in his body rises above a certain level to be specified in the order. To enforce this, the defendant will be required to submit to monitoring of his alcohol level.

The court can impose exceptions, although it is not clear in what circumstances they would be – perhaps a court might allow you a drink for your birthday.

It should also be noted that LASPO defines alcohol to mean “anything containing alcohol”. This would seem to include chocolate liqueurs and food prepared using alcohol.

Currently, these orders are only available to courts in the South London Justice Area – think Camberwell Green Magistrates Court – but you can expect them to be rolled out across the country very soon.

We have noticed that the Metropolitan Police now make a standard request for an Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring Requirement to be imposed on everybody they charge with drink driving regardless of whether that person is appearing in court within the South London Justice Area. This is a very strong suggestion that, once available elsewhere, the police and prosecutors will routinely ask courts to impose Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring Requirements as part of the sentence.

If you are facing court and would like advice on this or any other aspect of motoring law then do not hesitate to contact Nick Diable at London Drink Driving Solicitor on 020 8242 4440.

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