Wearable drugs tag ‘could be used in the UK’ says Tory minister

Kit Malthouse told MPs that he had recently met with authorities in Korea where the technology is being developed.

Wearable drugs tag ‘could be used in the UK’ says Tory minister Urbazon via iStock
Drugs: Wearable tags 'could combat crime'.

A tag which tells whether people have taken drugs could be used to combat crime in future, a Tory minister has said.

The device, similar to the ankle-mounted sobriety tag currently used to prevent alcohol-related crimes, would detect whether someone had taken illegal drugs through regular samples of their sweat.

Home Office minister Kit Malthouse told MPs that he had recently met with Korean authorities, where the technology is being developed, and added the Government was interested in investing in the monitors.

As MPs debated the Government’s new 10-year drugs strategy, the minister also heard calls to tackle white collar drug users from central London, which he described as a “drug epicentre” in the UK.

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Conservative MP Dr Caroline Johnson (Sleaford and North Hykeham) said: “Sobriety tags, wearable devices which monitor alcohol consumption in offenders, were trialled first in Lincolnshire and have been rolled out due to their success in preventing 90% of people from consuming alcohol whilst wearing them.

“Can I ask the minister whether such an approach would be useful for those who are taking drugs?”

Malthouse said: “She will be pleased to hear that I met this morning with the Korean ambassador and the superintendent of police from that country, with whom we do an awful lot of work, not least on international money flows.

“But, in particular, one of the things I raised was my interest in the research and invention by a Korean research institute of exactly that: a drugs tag, a wearable device that will detect the consumption of drugs in somebody’s sweat.

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“We are very interested in this technology. We have a fund which we can invest in some of these technological developments because she is quite right, on sobriety bracelets, on ankle tags, we have seen 97% compliance, and we do think there is a role for that and a checking in drugs as well.”

Later in the debate, Conservative MP Nickie Aiken (Cities of London and Westminster) welcomed the strategy’s “emphasis on hopefully holding professional classes to account for their actions”.

She said: “They may want to buy their Fairtrade coffee and go to the farmers’ market and buy their organic food, but maybe they should spend more time thinking about the cocaine they buy for their weekend parties, because that fuels county lines.”

She called for the Government to consider putting “drugs barons” on the sex offenders register and “making sure that they are accountable for their crimes against children”.

Malthouse replied: “She represents one of the drug epicentres of the country sadly, in central London. She is quite right, much of that drug abuse, that violence, that degradation is driven by casual, thoughtless use by people who don’t regard themselves as addicted but nevertheless are complicit in the violence.”

He added a Government white paper due in the spring will set out “a structure of escalating impositions” for drug users from the professional classes and could lead to “a drugs operation outside Lancaster Gate, or Bayswater tube station, or Belgravia rather than in other parts of the capital”.

The minister also said the Government needed to focus on putting drugs barons “behind bars for as long as we can”.

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Sobriety tags were launched in England in March this year, with the aim of preventing crimes influenced by alcohol like domestic abuse and attacks on strangers.

At the time of launch the Government said preliminary research from Wales had shown previous alcohol-fuelled offenders had stayed sober for 95% of the time after being tagged.

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