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Date: (27 July 2012)    |    

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An initiative by a range of partners in Hull including Hull City Council is to give gym passes as sentences to offenders who have been convicted of alcohol induced offences if they complete court orders and keep out of trouble for three months.
According to the Hull Citysafe the pilot is intended as a diversionary tactics for offenders, but critics say that taxpayers should not be paying for offenders to spend their time in the gym.
Hull Citysafe, a community safety partnership, wants £29,000 from Humberside Police Authority to mentor the offenders and provide the passes.
The funding request from Citysafe was part of new proposals to cut alcohol-related crime across the force area, which could cost the authority up to £288,000.
Vicky Harris, head of substance misuse and offender health at Citysafe, said the cash would fund a 12-month trial to expand court-ordered alcohol treatment.
She said it would give people the opportunity to try out gyms, so instead of spending their days drinking and offending, they replace that with a natural high.
She added that it might look like a soft option but actually the aim is to stop people from reoffending. Controlling and diverting such behaviour could also mean fewer victims of crime.
It is suppose to be a short term trial giving an understanding of how successful the pilot would be or not.
She said offenders 'will not receive passes to David Lloyd fitness centres' but most likely be given short-term access to council-run gyms.
She said though Citysafe wanted to encourage more physical activity it doesn’t have to be a gym. It was about pointing them in the direction of a more positive lifestyle.
The option is taken away if the alcohol treatment requirement, an intensive programme, is not completed by the offenders and the option is also taken away if they re-offend.
It was not meant for some stupid mistake by someone who just had a drink too many but the focus would be on people with an alcohol problem whose offending was becoming quite serious and trying to break their cycle of offending. It would be more effective than giving them a fine or sending them to prison.'
However, the initiative has been described by critics as one which 'rewards criminal behaviour'.
Robert Oxley, Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers' Alliance said it was beggar’s belief that while law abiding taxpayers have to tighten their own belts, those who break the law might get a free pass to the gym. To many, this will appear to be a rewarding yobbish and criminal behaviour. With so many open spaces available giving free passes for gyms was not proper he added.
Humberside Probation Trust spokesperson said alcohol misuse was a significant factor in offending in Hull, and particularly in violent offending. The money would allow more intensive and coordinated treatment of alcohol related problems.