UK judges back Lindsay Lohan-style 'booze bracelets' for parents who abuse alcohol to determine whether they can keep their children
- Family Drug and Alcohol Court given bracelets to more than a dozen parents
- Devices detect traces of alcohol through the skin and are used in the U.S
- UK trial began in November in cases where children were taken into care
- Court warned parents that they must change drinking habits or lose children
- Lohan had one fitted after failing to turn up for a drink-driving court date
Monitored: Troubled star Lindsay Lohan wearing the tag on her ankle. The device has been fitted to 274,000 people in America since 2003
Parents with a history of alcohol abuse are being fitted with US-style ‘booze bracelets’ to determine whether they can keep custody of their children.
In the first UK trial of its kind, the highly controversial ankle tags have been given to more than a dozen problem parents by the Family Drug and Alcohol Court (FDAC) so a check can be kept on their promises to stay sober.
The devices detect traces of alcohol released through the skin and are commonly used in the States to monitor alcohol-dependent criminals and tackle anti-social behaviour.
Troubled Hollywood actress Lindsay Lohan was ordered to wear one for a year after failing to turn up for a drink-driving court date.
The UK trial, which began last November, has involved 13 individual parents referred to the FDAC in Central London after their drinking became so bad their children were taken into foster care.
The court, set up in 2008 by District Judge Nicholas Crichton, warns parents that they must change their behaviour or lose their children for good. It has so far presided over more than 200 cases.
If parents commit to change, the court has a multi-disciplinary team run by The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, a mental health unit, and Coram children’s charity to provide immediate intensive support.
The bracelets, known as SCRAMx, are being used as an alternative to other forms of testing the FDAC routinely carries out, for example blood and urine samples and hair strand analysis.
They clip on to the ankle and every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, test for the presence of alcohol fumes emitted by the skin.
These readings are then transmitted to a base station usually installed at the individual’s home. The base station uploads the data automatically to a central database in Denver, Colorado, where it is processed and sent back to the FDAC.
This allows the FDAC to identify if any of the parents have consumed alcohol and, if so, how much and how often. It can also determine whether the bracelet has been tampered with. On average, FDAC parents have worn them for 42 days, but the longest time was 98 days.
The FDAC says the system has proved highly successful and in a couple of cases parents have been allowed to return home with their children.
Regularly tested: Lindsay Lohan flaunts her SCRAMx bracelet, which tests for alcohol every half an hour
Judge Crichton said: ‘We are dealing with troubled families who have child after child in the hope that one day the courts will let them keep one.
'In one London borough alone, 203 children have come into the care system from just 49 mothers.
‘It seems crazy to go on in that way when there may well be another way of tackling their problems. It’s expensive to keep removing children and adopting them – far better to tackle the heart of the issue, which is drug or alcohol problems.
‘The bracelet is no more expensive than having a hair strand test, which is historical and not current. If alcohol is detected it sends out an alert.
Punishment: Lohan was ordered to wear one for a year after failing to turn up for a drink-driving court date
‘If this happens, we are notified immediately. It provides local authorities with a greater degree of confidence in allowing parents to have contact with children who are in care, and in one or two cases it has allowed children to go home to their parents on the basis that the local authority will know very quickly if the parent chooses to drink.’
Versions of the bracelet have been used in the US since 2003 and have been fitted to more than 274,000 people.
Dr Claire George, laboratory director at Concateno, the worldwide drug, alcohol and healthcare testing organisation which manufactures the devices, said: ‘It’s about helping an individual succeed.
‘They can see on record that they’ve been successful.’
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