PEOPLE arrested for being drunk and disorderly in York will soon be able to attend a one-day course instead of being charged.

Offenders will be encouraged on the courses to reflect on their behaviour and self-image rather than purely alcohol issues, says a report to City of York Council’s Community Safety Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

The Alcohol Referral Project courses bears some similarities to speed awareness courses, which are offered to many motorists caught speeding instead of offenders having points put on their licence.

The report says places on courses will be offered to people “arrested for public order and drunkenness offences.”

After being arrested, people will be bailed for 14 days and then given the option to attend the course, in which case their bail will be cancelled.” it says.

“If the option of the course is not taken up, they will be charged for the offence.”

The project, which will be operated by the charity Lifeline and run for a pilot period of 12 to 18 months, will exclude anyone who is alcohol dependent, has mental health issues or is a prolific offender.

“Previous studies have shown that the impact of the course on participants lasts for about a year but they will receive text message alerts (written by themselves on the course) after this time to keep up motivation,” says the report.

“Funding has been provided by the North Yorkshire Substance Misuse Partnership which will allow for the course to be initially free of charge, but a charge could be introduced at a later date.”

The report said the University of York had agreed to provide evaluation of the project.

Similar alcohol referral schemes already run elsewhere in the country, including in Wiltshire, Derbyshire, Portsmouth and Gloucestershire, where a referral scheme claims to have cut the number of offenders re-committing alcohol related offences by 50 per cent.

The report also reveals that:

• Alcohol awareness campaigns may be held at the University of York amid concerns about the number of drunk freshers who attended York Hospital’s A&E department

• British Transport Police, who have increased their presence on trains into York from Middlesbrough to tackle drunkenness among passengers, have noticed a worrying trend of women “pre-loading” (drinking) a high amounts of spirits before they go out for the night, who said they would not have the confidence to go out without having a number of drinks first

• A new Alcohol Restriction Zone (ARZ) is set to be officially introduced in the city centre next month, with portable display banners to be deployed at the railway station on Saturdays to inform travellers of the zone and to try to deter them from taking alcohol into pubs and clubs.