When I heard on the radio yesterday that Adrian Lee (who he? - he a member of the Association of Chief Police Officers) had called for drunk tanks to be established in rowdy city centres I initially wondered where they would find all these tanks for drunks to drive and whether that would be such a good idea anyway.
In the event, I realised that Mr Lee had only a slightly worse idea.
What this chap actually wants is slightly unclear if I'm honest. Sounds simple at first: cells are not the place for drunks so we'll set up some cells to put drunks in and then charge them for the stay. But when you think for a minute what he's actually proposing is slightly harder to implement.
Mr Lee said, "I do not see why the police service or the health service should pick up the duty of care for someone who has chosen to go out and get so drunk that they cannot look after themselves." My answer to that is, "well because that is one of the reasons they both exist" but we'll go along with Mr Lee's plan for the moment anyway.
Let's just start by thinking about that statement. People get drunk. We know that. Bad things happen when you are drunk. A lot of people on Twitter don't like to admit that women are more vulnerable to attack when drunk but we all are, men and women. Is Mr Lee seriously suggesting that if a woman is raped while too drunk to look after herself the police should ignore her? What if a man gets drunk and stumbles into the road and is run over. Should the NHS refuse to treat him because he was drunk? Even on the face of it his statement is nonsense.
Now, according to that statement police officers shouldn't be getting involved with drunks and assuming a duty of care. Well, once you nick 'em you got that duty of care so presumably Mr Lee's well thought out plan involves somebody else doing the nicking. This would require civilian, i.e. non-police officers who are employed by such trustworthy companies as Serco & G4S to be given powers to arrest and imprison people, so a bit of primary legislation required there... should take a couple of years that one.
Since we can't use police cells now, we'll have to build some local holding facilities, we'll call them "Jails". They'll need staff who will need to be trained up to care for the prisoners - incidentally, a job which the private sector already does quite badly, e.g. Thameside prison in east London.
Essentially what Mr Lee appears to be saying is that he wants civilians to be able to single out a member of the public, tie them up, drag them off somewhere and hold them prisoner for a night. Can't imagine what the police would say if I decided to head out and do that to some passing drunk woman tonight.. oh wait yes I can think what they'd say.
I'm not aware of any legislation that would allow any old Tom, Dick of Harry to hold un-convicted members of the public prisoner without falling foul of these tiresome laws we have here, such as false imprisonment and kidnapping. So, we will need more legislation to allow the jails to operate. I would hope that the British public would be totally against the introduction of a new, barely trained mob of non-police being given powers to nap people off the street almost at will. I hope the public would be against it but I won't hold my breath.
Now, how about charging the prisoners for their stay and what happens if they refuse to pay up or can't pay up? You have three options: 1. don't charge people; 2. don't release them until they pay; or 3. give these non-police officers powers similar to those held by judges to conduct means enquiries to determine ability to pay.
If we don't charge then these jails will be horribly expensive to run. If you don't release until the bill is paid then you could see people imprisoned for ever if they simply can't pay and the fee increases by £400 per night. If you give this barely trained (and they will be barely trained at best) bunch the powers currently only held by a court then fuck the lot of you, I'm moving abroad.
Of course, the companies could release people after their night's stay and sue them for the cost... except that there's no basis in law to claim such a fee. Guess what.. this means more primary legislation.
I don't doubt that dealing with drunk people is a pain in the arse for police officers and those in the NHS, but it is part of the job. If you can't accept that then get a job somewhere you won't meet the drunks. You could, for example, become an MP and introduce some sort of considered, reasoned change to society that cuts down on binge drinking and drunken violence. Admittedly, drunk tanks are easier to implement than societal changes but they are not nearly as effective.
It's just a thought, but how about state funded burger and kebab vans? Lots of trouble seems to kick off when people are leaving pubs, bars and clubs. Give them some hot food to concentrate their minds and they'll probably calm down... if they don't they'll be so busy wiping chilli sauce from their clothes that they still won't be a problem.