Gym passes for Hull's drunken louts? £29k wanted for 'natural highs' plan
DRUNKEN troublemakers could be given free gym passes.
Offenders convicted of alcohol-fuelled crimes will be given the passes if they complete a court order and remain out of trouble for three months.
Hull Citysafe wants £29,000 from Humberside Police Authority to mentor the criminals and provide "diversionary activities", including the passes.
Vicky Harris, head of substance misuse and offender health at Citysafe, said the cash would fund a 12-month trial to expand court-ordered alcohol treatment requirements given to criminals.
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"We want to give people the opportunity to try out gyms, so instead of spending their days drinking and offending, they replace that with a natural high," she said.
"It might seem like a soft option but actually our aim is to stop that person reoffending. If they are getting drunk and starting fights, that means there will also be fewer victims of crime.
"It will only be for a short-term trial, which will give us an understanding of what works and what doesn't."
She said offenders "will not receive passes to David Lloyd fitness centres" and will more likely be given short-term access to council-run gyms.
"We want to encourage more physical activity but it doesn't have to be a gym.," said Mrs Harris.
"It is about pointing them in the direction of a more positive lifestyle.
"If they don't complete the alcohol treatment requirement, which is a very structured, very intensive programme, the option is taken away. If they reoffend, the option is taken away."
Alcohol treatment requirements are most often given to criminals who have committed common assaults or caused actual bodily harm.
Mrs Harris said: "They aren't given to people who have gone out, had too much to drink and done something stupid. We are trying to focus on people with an alcohol problem whose offending is becoming quite serious and trying to break their cycle of offending. It is more effective than giving them a fine or sending them to prison."
The funding request from Citysafe is part of new proposals to cut alcohol-related crime across the force area, which could cost the authority up to £288,000. They are included in a report due to be discussed by authority members next week.
The report says there has been a "huge increase" in alcohol-related hospital admissions in East Yorkshire.
As part of the plans to tackle the problem, drinkers convicted in the East Riding could be offered the chance to go on a course instead of being fined or prosecuted.
Offenders will be charged £50 to go on the courses, called drinking seminars, which will include education about the dangers of drinking.
It is part of a request for £60,000 from the East Riding Community Safety Partnership, which will also see offenders avoid prosecution if they agree to speak to an alcohol health worker to discuss their drinking as part of a conditional caution.
The seminar scheme will cost about £20,000 to set up, but officials hope it will eventually become self-funding.
The report says: "The proposal would be targeted at those who will change their behaviour given a relatively low-level intervention.
"Presently some may be getting fixed penalty notices, which are often unpaid and do not address alcohol consumption and its associated behaviour."
Citysafe is also asking for £41,000 to fund two alcohol workers to be based in police stations and courts.
They will assess whether offenders who have committed alcohol-fuelled crimes are suitable for alcohol treatment requirements, which including counselling and treatment for alcohol problems.
Mrs Harris said: "The main focus of our application is getting more workers into court, so we can get more people on to alcohol treatment requirements. The figures around them are amazing.
"There are people in the city who have been arrested more than 30 times before going on them, but haven't reoffended at all in the six months after completing it. We know they have a really positive impact.
"We have a problem with people drinking too much in Hull and offending. If they all end up in custody, that is a big stretch on resources."
The number of people being admitted to hospitals in East Yorkshire because of alcohol-related illness or injury has more than doubled from an average of 17 a day between 2002 and 2004, to 40 a day in 2010-11.
Figures reveal there were 304 alcohol-fuelled violent crimes in Hull and the East Riding between April and June.
Statistics show alcohol is linked to almost a third of violent attacks in East Yorkshire.
A spokesman for Humberside Probation Trust, which manages people subject to alcohol treatment requirements, said: "Alcohol misuse is a significant factor in offending in Hull, and particularly in violent offending.
"The money will enable better identification of whether offenders who are awaiting a court appearance have alcohol issues, ensuring this is brought to the attention of probation and the court."