The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have called for privately-run 'drunk tanks' where the nation's inebriates can be held overnight and charged for the privilege.
Sleeping it off in the cells has previously been one of the traditional ends to an evening of over-imbibing for some, but the police say they shouldn't be responsible for the care of drunks. ACPO's suggestion is for a private company such as G4S or Serco to step in and charge a fee for taking care of drinkers and holding them overnight.
Presumably because private contractors run things like prisons, electronic tagging, immigration detention centres and Olympic security so effectively already, ACPO believe they should be rewarded with further opportunities to prompt calls for public inquiries.
While we'd all probably like to see the capital's cells freed up for actual criminals, there are obvious flaws in the proposal — the need for regular checks to make sure the drinker hasn't choked to death for example. We're also somewhat hazy on how the inebriated will be picked up in the first place — will the police transfer them to the contractor-run cells or is the plan to send a few private vans (which will presumably become known as beer taxis) around collecting likely suspects? What happens when, as will inevitably occur, the homeless are detained and effectively fined for an overnight stay?
Vice-chairman of the Police Federation Steve White isn't all that happy with it either:
"This proposal throws up far more questions than answers, particularly with regards to accountability. Privately-operated drunk tanks are neither a viable nor long-term solution to binge drinking and merely represent a sticking plaster for the problem."
"It's a great shame that due to the cuts to the service we find ourselves in a situation where we are even considering the use of private contractors to carry out traditional police functions."
Photo by Dominica69 in the Londonist Flickr pool.