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Portman Group: Alcohol-related crime figures 'meaningless'

From The Publican

07-Mar-2002

The Home Office and the police have been strongly criticised for quoting inaccurate and misleading crime figures on alcohol-related disorder in Britain's towns.A new report from drinks watchdog The Portman Group suggests that widely-used statistics claiming between 70 and 80 per cent of late-night violence is fuelled by alcohol are "meaningless".The police, along with the Home Office and charity Alcohol Concern, have often used this data in their efforts to prevent pubs gaining late-night licences. The worrying statistics have also stopped many people visiting town centre outlets at weekends in the belief that pubs are the main source of the problem. The Portman Group's study, Counting the Cost, carried out by the Social Issues Research Centre, suggests the figures should be taken with a pinch of salt, claiming the inconsistent methods of gathering data do not produce solid evidence on the problem.The study among police, crime reduction partnerships and hospital accident and emergency units showed that record keeping was in chaos and far too inconsistent to produce any realistic picture on the levels of crime. It found that a quarter of police forces failed to keep any record of alcohol-related crime while definitions on what "alcohol-related" actually meant varied widely.Dr Peter Marsh, who led the research project, said: "All existing procedures have such serious weaknesses that they are unable to provide truly objective and reliable data."Gareth Johns, executive officer for the Licensed Victuallers (Wales) said he was annoyed at the report's findings - but not surprised.He said that three years ago pubs in Cardiff were the target of a name and shame campaign by hospital doctors - often based on wrong information."The police told me then they were concerned about the quality of the information," said Mr Johns. "Most of it was inaccurate and some was even about pubs that no longer existed. There are inaccuracies and it does annoy me."The Portman Group is now calling for a nationwide system for collating data in order to gain realistic estimates and tackle the problem effectively.Director Jean Coussins said: "It is self-evident that alcohol-related crime is a problem. But the Government will stand no chance whatsoever of knowing how best to prevent it, or whether it's getting better or worse, unless it sorts out the chaos of record-keeping by police, hospitals and local authorities." Definitions of 'alcohol-related'Police licensing officers varied in their definition of the label "alcohol-related":

Consumption of alcohol was directly responsible for the offending:

12 per cent

Drinking was a significant cause of the offending:

68 per cent

Drinking was one of a number of factors that resulted in the offence:

22 per cent

Alcohol consumption played an unknown role in the offence:

4 per cent

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