You what?

Yesterday, Adrian Lee, the chief constable of Northamptonshire and the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on tackling alcohol problems, 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.

“So why don’t we take them to a drunk cell owned by a commercial company and get the commercial company to look after them during the night until they are sober. When that is over we will issue them with a fixed penalty and the company will be able to charge them for their care, which would be at quite significant cost and that might be a significant deterrent.”

It is estimated that it costs between £300 and £400 a night to hold someone in a police cell – more than a night in the Ritz hotel – while police can issue a fine of up to £80 for an offence of drunk and disorderly.

Erm, because that would be a penalty for having been drunk? A penalty which should properly only be applied by a court, or at the very least with the possibility of appeal to one?

The police do recall that they are the police, not judge and jury, do they?

There is another angle to it as well. Being so drunk is of course a health care matter. That’s why you need to be taken care of, for your health. And we all already pay taxes to be taken care of for our health by the NHS. This would be rather a breach in the idea of treatment free at the point of need, wouldn’t it?

35 thoughts on “You what?”

  1. I’m afraid this is something that’s going to resonate with the public. It’s a valid question, after all, why should the resources of the NHS be squandered on those who make no attempt to behave responsibly?

    Where you draw the line is the tricky part.

  2. It also costs the police £300/400 a night to have the staff sit around doing nothing.

    If the police don’t want to do the job then the politicians better de-criminalise drunken behaviour. The police have to follow the law, not the other way round.

    And if local society didn’t want drunks wandering around at night, I’m sure that pub landlords would make a killing keeping customers locked in – whilst charging them for the privilege.

  3. Well some sections of society have decided it’s a health matter, but that doesn’t make it so.

    It could just as easily be seen as a moral matter – nothing to do with the state unless a nuisance is caused. So if you’ve put your health in danger through drink, you pay money to get out of it.

    There are potential underlying health problems that can cause regular excessive drinking and those could be treated for free – but basically, you drink you pay.

    Committing a crime is different – there you get locked up and the police man is talking balls about charging hotel fees.

  4. This does seem to be highlighting a serious issue – those who break the law and over-indulge don’t pay enough of the cost of dealing with them.

  5. JuliaM,

    So, the NHS is going to charge people who hurt themselves rock climbing or playing rugby?

    This is just typical from the state. Don’t go after real criminals like shoplifters or burglars, go after people who will supinely hand over money, like tax paying car drivers and drinkers, under the threat that if they contest it, it’ll cost them far more.

    I would gladly bet a bottle of Talisker that if this gets introduced, the real problem drunks, the ones who scrounge money for drink don’t get targetted (because they don’t have any money). It’ll be some bloke who gets caught stumbling down the road singing and taking a piss in the bushes.

  6. I’ve no doubt that’ll happen, but still, the point is valid – while the police are rounding up the drunks keeping you awake at night they aren’t available to catch burglars, and while the doctor’s treating them for alcohol poisoning or injuries from falling over, he’s not available to sort your gran’s broken hip.

    Just how much more can we be expected to pay towards people who bear none of this cost themselves?

  7. Wow. Watch how quickly “drunk and causing a nuisance” moves towards “drunk but causing no trouble” once commercial incentives are introduced.

  8. Surely the drunks already pay a considerable price in alcohol duties?

    What about the perverse incentives that this would create? The police already stand accused of milking the motorist with speed cameras. With the private-sector drunk tank operators egging them on, the police will start rounding up anyone who’s had more than a shandy.

    I’ve never in my life been in a drunk tank; but on plenty of occasions I’ve been sufficiently drunk that under the new incentives I’d be locked up and charged £300.

  9. @ Tim Almond

    “So, the NHS is going to charge people who hurt themselves rock climbing or playing rugby?”

    Sure, why not? Just as travel insurance doesn’t necessarily cover rock climbing (not sure about rugby), why should National Health Insurance?

    They could easily take out some private insurance to cover these activities.

  10. @juliam, if you tax people to provide a universal healthcare, without them having the choice whether to join or not, then you cannot restrict or put conditions on whether they will be treated or not because of what you did. Besides, nothing stop an A&E department to allocate lower priority to such cases if possible.

    In the case of drinkers or smokers, considering the amount of tax on alcohol and cigarettes, I would think that they pay several times over their “cost” so the point is moot.

    Furthermore, the £400 or whatever made up number they come up for a night in a cell sounds like bollocks. As Tim often says, considering how long the buildings have been built, it’s a marginal cost at best.

  11. It’s a good idea. There’s no difference in principle between this and private prisons. Sleep it off and pay a fine is far, far better than the catastrophe of criminal proceedings. Public drunks are a public nuisance and it’s absolutely consistent with all but the most extreme libertarian principles to prevent public nuisance and to charge the person who caused the problem for the cost of the solution.

    This has nothing to do with health. Someone can be disorderly on a one-off drunk which has no health implications; people can quietly and politely drink themselves to death.

  12. Should have read “because of what they did”.

    @ Doug, same comment as for JuliaM.

    Also, I take it that you don’t do anything that could get you injured accidentally obviously? Somehow I have the feeling that your opinion would change then.

  13. Criminals do not pay for private prisons.

    Maybe we should start charging them (not that I am against the idea in theory).

  14. “Criminals do not pay for private prisons.”

    No, the principle I was referring to is incarceration. Having said that, I think prisoners with jobs do have earnings docked to contribute towards keep.

  15. “if you tax people to provide a universal healthcare, without them having the choice whether to join or not, then you cannot restrict or put conditions on whether they will be treated or not because of what you did. ”

    Rubbish. The State already decides whether people who have paid compulsory taxes may get treatment or not, or have to wait for it, or be denied certain drugs due to the cost of them. Who gets what in a State run health service is entirely down to the State to decide. There are no ‘rights’. Ergo if the State decides that falling down drunks don’t get NHS treatment, its no different than the State deciding you can’t have a hip operation for a year despite being in agony. Their system, their rules. They have the guns remember?

    Which is why it would be better for all concerned to move to an insurance based system, so that people who wish to indulge in risky activities, such a rugby, horse riding , rock climbing, or falling down drunk pay extra insurance premiums to cover the costs. After all we seem to accept that middle aged men with 7 years no claims bonus pay about 10% of the insurance costs of a 20 yo boy racer who’s already had an accident or two, why should healthcare be any different?

  16. @Jim, I agree with you on the principle of private insurance totally.

    But we have the system we have. I know that in practice, healthcare is rationed in some ways (my wife works as a radiographer) and that the state has the guns.

    That makes it even more important that we cannot let it impose things like that arbitrarily.

    You’re drunk AND disorderly, then suffer the consequences. I’m afraid the problem is that there are none.

  17. Won’t work – even if was a sensible idea.

    31,000 arrests for drunk and disorderly – that’s an average of about 10 each week per police force. So a drunk tank might – just – work for the Met and maybe for G Manchester, West Yorkshire, West Mids. But for everywhere else there simply aren’t enough drunks.

    For Northants where this fussbucket hails from arrests for disorder (including carrying weapons) run at about 100 per month. This is all arrests for disorder – of which D&D are a minority.

  18. Doug Young,

    Sure, why not? Just as travel insurance doesn’t necessarily cover rock climbing (not sure about rugby), why should National Health Insurance?

    Well, I have no problem with that. My point was more that the people who talk about minimum alcohol pricing because of the costs to the NHS don’t consider other costs to the NHS due to personal choices.

    And we already have a system for paying for the NHS via alcohol duties. Look at it as a Drinkers Mutual Fund. You pay in, and 44.4p of your pint goes into the DMF. Occassionally, you might decide to party hard on tequila, resulting in dancing on tables, and you fall and twist your ankle. The DMF then pays for the cost of A&E and the x-ray for that twisted ankle, and you’re perhaps a bit wiser about dancing on tables.

    I’m sure there’s a few outliers, people who drink far too hard, and cost the Drinker’s Mutual Fund too much, but they are outliers, and probably take less out of that fund than the government does each year to spend on ludicrously expensive IT systems that don’t work and museums that no-one visits.

  19. @ Simon Cooke

    “So a drunk tank might – just – work for the Met and maybe for G Manchester, West Yorkshire, West Mids. But for everywhere else there simply aren’t enough drunks.”

    Once there’s money to be made in finding drunks, they’ll find more drunks.

  20. “Sure, why not? Just as travel insurance doesn’t necessarily cover rock climbing (not sure about rugby), why should National Health Insurance?”

    Because “national health insurance” isn’t insurance. It is tax and you have no choice but to pay it. If people genuinely did pay for their own treatment then there would be no problem. Imagine travel insurance provided by government via taxation, shudder, and think again.

    Police exist to enforce the laws of society. This is their job. They are funded by taxation to do this job. If they are sick of doing it then yes please to private police as well.

  21. @Monoi

    “Also, I take it that you don’t do anything that could get you injured accidentally obviously?”

    Sometimes, and if it came into the category of dangerous sports or under the influence of drugs then I’d be quite willing to take insurance out for the action.

    @tomsmith

    “Because “national health insurance” isn’t insurance. It is tax and you have no choice but to pay it.”

    So what? Government and democracies can still decide what is paid for with the proceeds of tax and what isn’t.

    @Tim Almond

    But alcohol tax isn’t hypothecated – never has been. Sure modern politicos have to wibble on about using it for health reasons, but that’s just their lips moving. It’s a useful thing to tax because it’s very popular.

  22. Remind me, ACPO has just what moral authority? It’s a private limited company – Warburtons The Bakers for senior coppers, if you like. These people are supposed to be our servants- when we want their opinions as citizens in uniform, we’ll ask for them.

    “To me, who am but a plain man, the proceedings look a little too refined, and too ingenious; it has too much the air of a political stratagem, adopted for the sake of giving, under a high-sounding name, an importance to the public declarations of this club, which, when the matter came to be closely inspected, they did not altogether so well deserve. It is a policy that has very much the complexion of a fraud.”
    Edmund Burke

  23. The police have been putting people in the drunk tank since Sir Robert Peel invented the police “force”. Now they are a police “service” and it costs £300-400 to do it.

    In Peel’s time £400 would have paid a years salary of 10 officers, but this may be more the effect of inflation than parasitism.

  24. “Once there’s money to be made in finding drunks, they’ll find more drunks.”

    You know where this is leading, of course?
    Breath tests for pedestrians. If you’re over the limit, into the tank you go.

  25. It never ceases to amaze me how popular the idea that people who use more NHS resources should pay more into the NHS is with people who believe that funding a health service through insurance instead of taxation is evil.

  26. Julia,

    > I guaran-damn-tee you those girl’s fines (if they even were fined!) plus their alcohol taxes didn’t cover a fraction of the cost of the resources they used up.

    You’re doing the wrong sum. Millions of people drink alcohol without costing the state significantly more than other people; many cost the state far less; and they all pay tax too. The way to work out the income versus outgoings is not to look at just one drinker and one incident, but to look at the amount brought in by alcohol duty and the amount alcohol-related shenanigans cost the state. I don’t have the figures to hand, but, last I heard, the state wins on this one. Though not as much as with cigarettes.

    This is the same way all such costs are figured out, by the way — in case you think I’m cutting the state some special slack here. The cost of a loaf of bread in Tesco takes into account the cost of cleaning up when someone throws up in the toothpaste aisle, despite the fact that almost no-one ever does.

  27. Doug Young,

    But alcohol tax isn’t hypothecated – never has been. Sure modern politicos have to wibble on about using it for health reasons, but that’s just their lips moving. It’s a useful thing to tax because it’s very popular.

    Sure, but they can’t say that drinkers aren’t paying their costs, when they clearly are.

    JuliaM,

    I really, really think you all underestimate just how much resource drunks soak up:

    But they were idle resources at the time, so actually, didn’t cost anything.

  28. “Millions of people drink alcohol without costing the state significantly more than other people; many cost the state far less; and they all pay tax too.”

    Precisely, and thats whats wrong with the ‘lets tax alcohol to pay for the costs caused by all the idiots’ concept. It means that the person who drinks responsibly and never falls over dead drunk and smashes themselves (and others) up and costs the NHS a fortune is paying for the ones who do. And thats not right. We don’t have a National Car Insurance service do we? Where we all pay a flat rate for our insurance that is the same for teetotal vicars in Morris Minors as for tattooed drug taking morons in souped up Imprezas? So why impose the same on drinkers? Or indeed the taxpayer at large?

  29. It never ceases to amaze me how popular the idea that people who use more NHS resources should pay more into the NHS is with people who believe that funding a health service through insurance instead of taxation is evil.

    Well, Squander Two, it is a mix of simmering sanctimony that can rise to the surface even amongst libertarians and self-interest; people concluding that they benefit from a universal system and will benefit even more if the chavs have to pay extra for their lifestyles while being confident that their lifestyles will not be caught up in the extra payments.

    As for those who suggest that the police are being distracted from more useful duties by drunks. The police always seek the path of least resistance hence their eagerness to waste resources dealing with offensive language. Far better to go after elderly pastors who express disagreement over gay pride marches than violent criminals. This will encourage them to start harassing those a bit worse for wear who are causing no problems rather than violent young drunks in large group.

    http://www.manifestoclub.com/node/1007

  30. Peter Risdon said:
    “Public drunks are a public nuisance”

    No, some public drunks are a public nuisance. Others just stagger quietly home (maybe via the kebab shop, but that’s more of a private nuisance).

    Of those that are a public nuisance, only some cause sufficient public nuisance to justify locking them up (whether or not they are charged for the privilege).

  31. “But they were idle resources at the time…”

    Were they? We don’t know that. Nor do we know what crimes or fires they could have been dealing with instead of being left standing around while two stupid idiots had their consequence-free ‘fun’…

  32. This crap is an open invite for the state’s costumed thug squad to start throwing their weight about even more with the man in the street. “Have you (we–if he is an esp patronising twat) been drinking Sir?” . Do you think they won’t have a quota/target for drunks under such a scheme?. Do you think they won’t lock you up even if you are a life-long teetotaller if you get up their nose or they fancy giving you a bit of harassment?. They can always “apologise” for their “mistake”. Never give these bastards the slightest excuse to involve themselves in your life in any way whatsoever and never support any measure that will do so.
    Julia M–you are usually sensible and should know better than to support this meddlers charter. Your obsession with chavery seems to be blinding you to dangers out there far worse than mostly minor league annoyance and trivial costs. A single state IT cock up costs decades worth if drunken expense. The state has created the underclass and if bad behaviour is ever to decline it will do so in tandem with a long-overdue decline in the state’s power.

  33. Spot on, Mr Ecks. Those lovers of freedom who have not yet discovered that all coppers are indeed bastards and the enemy have either not lived long enough or well enough.

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