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Thursday, 07 June 2018

Gwent scheme will see first time offenders offered course to avoid court

Written by Johanna Carr

Offenders in South Wales who commit low-level crimes while under the influence of alcohol will be offered the chance to take a two-hour educational course rather than face court, police have said.

It is hoped the scheme introduced by Gwent Police will reduce re-offending and also cut costs usually incurred by taking such matters to court.

A spokeswoman for the force, the first in Wales to adopt the Alcohol Diversion Scheme, said it would be mainly targeted at first-time offenders and offered at the discretion of custody sergeants for offences such as being drunk and disorderly and low-level theft where alcohol was a factor.

Chief Inspector Richard Blakemore said the course would be a "key aspect of the wider strategy which will help us tackle alcohol problems within Gwent".

"The focus of this initiative is education," he said.

"When people consume substantial amounts of alcohol, individuals can act out of character, we want to help those who make one bad decision not make the same mistake twice.

"We strongly believe this will help to reduce drunken incidents on our streets and make our communities safer."

The classroom-based course, which is already offered by several police forces in England, will cost participants £46.50 and means that, provided they attend, they will not have to appear in court, facing a potential criminal record and fine.

Attendees will be taught about the long-term effects of alcohol and how to avoid behaviour that is likely to get them on the wrong side of the law.

They will also learn about the impact on friends, family and the community as well as the potential risks to themselves and others in alcohol-fuelled situations.

Sharon Haynes, director of client services for TTC Group, which will run the scheme, said the course was designed to educate people to help ensure they do not continue to make the same mistakes.

She said: "Many people will never have been in trouble before so, working with the police forces, we want to look at how we can educate them to make sure they don't re-offend."

People who choose to attend a course will not show up on criminal record checks but will not be offered it again if they go on to re-offend.

Gwent's Police and Crime Commissioner Jeff Cuthbert said this was not a "get out of jail free card but an opportunity for those who have made one silly mistake to take responsibility for their actions and reduce their chances of re-offending".

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