I resisted the temptation to post a video of Fairytale of New York. After all it opens with these words:
It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me,
Won't see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you
So our top coppers - or at least one of them - wants to introduce these things to deal with the 'scourge' of binge drinking:
So why don’t we take them to a drunk cell owned by a commercial company and get the commercial company to look after them during the night until they are sober?
Thus cries Adrian Lee, Chief Constable of Northamptonshire (and ACPO spokesman on drink - a sort of nannying fussbucket's nannying fussbucket).
Leaving aside the fussbucketry of this proposal, it seems to me that there are insufficient drunks - or at least drunks that the cops arrest - to sustain a private market in drying them out overnight. Even at £400 a throw.
Let's start with the stats:
More than 31,000 people were given a fixed penalty for the offence last year, although it is not known how many of those would have been so drunk that they had to be held in a cell overnight.
Assuming that half of these people were incapacitated, that's 15,500 drunks headed for the drunk tank to while away the time singing old Irish songs (or whatever). There are 42 police forces in England and Wales (I've not included the transport police, nuclear police, MoD police and City of London). That's 370 per year on average per authority - which is about one per day. Even if all those 31,000 had to be held over night it's still only two a day - at £400 a pop that's not a viable business.
This proposal achieved its aim - it got Mr Lee a headline. The sad thing is that, admidst all the debate about the sense or ethics of the idea, nobody thought to ask whether it was actually viable as a business. I'm guessing you might make it work in Central London and perhaps in one or two big cities (Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester) where the numbers are greater.
Unless, of course, Mr Lee is planning for a time when we arrest people for drinking!