High price for too much post-rugby celebration

Some of the thousands of British and Irish Lions fans descending on Sydney this weekend for the third and final, decisive rugby test against the Wallabies could find themselves spending the night in "sobering-up centres" if they get drunk and disorderly - and paying A$200 ($234) for the privilege.

The centres, in central Sydney and the eastern suburbs, are part of a drive by the New South Wales Government against alcohol-fuelled violence. Revellers engaging in anti-social behaviour will spend the night in a centre if they ignore a police request to go home.

The Government wants to cover the scheme's cost, so first-time guests will be fined A$200. Subsequent visits will cost A$400, A$600 and A$800.

"So, if you're a frequent flyer, very shortly you're going to work out that it was much cheaper for you to have simply obeyed the direction and stayed in your own bed," Police Minister Mike Gallacher said this week.

The scheme is being trialled amid mounting concerns about alcohol-fuelled violence, particularly in the city centre at weekends, and following the death of teenager Thomas Kelly, who died after being "king-hit" by Kieran Loveridge in Kings Cross last year, in a random and unprovoked attack.

Loveridge pleaded guilty last month after a murder charge was reduced to manslaughter.

Drunks picked up in the city centre will be taken to the cells at Downing Centre Local Court, while the eastern suburbs centre, in Coogee, will be supervised by drug and alcohol counsellors. A third centre is planned for Wollongong, south of Sydney.

The programme will run on Friday and Saturday nights and during long weekends and major events.

Gallacher has said that only "fully conscious" adults who are not injured, and "not unduly violent, aggressive and abusive" will be admitted to the centres.

But opposition health spokesman Andrew McDonald warned: "You can't tell if somebody has had too much to drink, too much of a dangerous drug, or has a head injury or diabetes. The reason drunk tanks were abolished ... was because people used to die in police cells when they were not being observed."

- NZ Herald

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