Course or Court? YOU DECIDE

Those who come into our custody whilst being under the influence of alcohol will now have the chance to avoid getting a criminal record and potentially going to court, by going on a two-hour educational course.

The new scheme, similar to the speed awareness course for drivers, will see offenders given the option to pay £46.50 for a two-hour educational session, as opposed to a criminal record and a 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.

The course is aimed at cutting reoffending and breaking the cycle at the start, by focusing on the effects of excessive drinking not just on the individual but on their family, friends and the local community.

The course will be offered with discretion and is usually aimed at first time offenders or those who commit low level crimes whilst drunk. People who choose to attend the course will not show up on criminal checks - but will also not be offered the course again if they go on to reoffend.

Chief Inspector Richard Blakemore said: 'The Alcohol Diversion Project is a key aspect of the wider strategy which will help us tackle alcohol problems within Gwent. The focus of this initiative is education. 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 classes will be run by the TTC Group, Director of Client Services Sharon Haynes said: 'The course has been designed to educate people to help ensure they don't continue to make the same mistakes.  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 reoffend.  There will also be opportunity to formulate a plan for behavioural change, whilst further sources of help and support will be readily available.'

Gwent's Police and Crime Commissioner Jeff Cuthbert said: 'Crime as a result of alcohol, no matter how minor, can significantly impact upon not just an individual's life, but the lives of many in the local community. This programme is 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.'

For more information about the course, please visit the TTC Group's website:  http://www.ttc-uk.com/police-referred-courses/alcohol-diversion-scheme/.