ACPO licensing lead says on-trade not doing enough to tackle binge drinking

By James Wallin contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Alcohol industry, Alcoholism

ACPO licensing lead Adrian Lee says the sector must do more to tackle alcohol misuse
ACPO licensing lead Adrian Lee says the sector must do more to tackle alcohol misuse
The Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on licensing has said efforts by the on-trade to tackle alcohol misuse have “barely scratched the surface” of the problem.

Adrian Lee, who is also chief constable of Northamptonshire Police, called for a renewed focus on pricing of alcohol and said “strong oversight” of the industry was needed.

He was speaking at the launch of this weekend’s national crackdown on alcohol abuse, which will include breathalyser trials being set up, where customers can choose to test their alcohol levels. In Loughborough, a number of venues will be trialling a mandatory breathalyser test for all customers.

Last year Lee called for ‘drunk tanks’ as a method of making irresponsible drinkers responsible for their cost to society. Today he said he feels little progress has been made over the last year and that there was a genuine need for more action.

He said: “We raised this issue last year and got real support from the public, other emergency services, health services, some parts of the alcohol industry and politicians.  We have seen increased efforts in the last 12 months from the alcohol industry and licensed venues to tackle excessive drinking, but these efforts have barely scratched the surface of a problem that is blighting our communities. 

Small steps

“Voluntary measures such as stopping the production of ‘super strength’ products in large cans, a commitment to responsible promotion of alcohol in shops and supermarkets and a small investment in education in schools are steps in the right direction. But they are small steps. There is much more to be done

 “To make real change we need strong oversight of the alcohol industry, we need to look at ways of dealing with the price and availability of alcohol and effective treatment for offenders with alcohol problems. “

Lee admitted that individuals also need to take “personal responsibility for their drinking” to break a culture of social tolerance of binge drinking.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said the truth of the situation was “nowhere near as desperate”.

She said: “By every measure, sales and consumption of alcohol are down dramatically as are incidents of disorder.  Over seventy per cent of all alcohol sold in the UK is for consumption in the home and total alcohol consumption is at its lowest for a century. Additionally, instances of alcohol-related violent crime have declined 32 per cent since 2004. To suggest that our towns and city centres have become unmanageable no-go zones is misleading and unhelpful.

Best practice

“Pubs and clubs across the UK are investing time, energy and money in promoting best practice and partnership schemes such as Best Bar None and they are working. Earlier this year a National Pubwatch report stated that 79% of police believed Pubwatch schemes had contributed to declining levels of crime.

“If a problem arises in a certain area, we want to work with local authorities and local police forces to address those issues; clumsy responses such as a blanket introduction of mandatory breath tests and a roll-out of drunk tanks may not have the intended effect and could simply increase consumption and problems in a domestic setting.

“Our staff members behind the bars and on the doors already do a fantastic job managing customers and there is a risk that heavy-handed measures may only displace the problem. Antagonising large queues and groups of people will likely increase the risk for frontline staff already in harm’s way. We also need to be careful that we do not push any problems into the home, away from where we can deal with them.”

This weekend’s campaign will see forces across the country targeting ‘violence hot spots’ where people who appear to be excessively drunk could be asked to leave the town or city. There will be road show events to promote responsible drinking, and street pastors will be on hand in town centres to offer advice and support.

Officers will also visit schools to speak to pupils about alcohol awareness, as well as universities where police are targeting the thousands of new students taking part in fresher’s week celebrations.

Related topics: Licensing law

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22 comments

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No complete solution

Posted by CC,

Nigel Wakefield, you make some interesting comments. You talk of '2 strikes and you're out' type measures. Imagine the bureaucracy in trying to enforce this. As a village pub we often get drunken people returning from the local town at 3 or 4am being dropped off by taxis outside our door making a lot of noise........the instant reaction of neighbours is that they've come out of our premises in that state and we have been serving after hours. We could then be subjected to malicious complaints to the licensing authorities and facing a loss of our licence for doing nothing wrong!
Trying to prove you have followed the law, not served drunks or under-age drinkers, closed on time etc etc is a very difficult task in these circumstances. What then?
I think that ALL outlets selling alcohol, whether it be on or off trade, need to be responsible. Pricing needs to be addressed to prevent supermarkets from selling so cheaply and the gap between what pubs are forced to charge and supermarkets narrowed. I do agree with Graham Bell however, the damage to the on trade could now be permanent.
Bottom line is that supermarkets only have measures in place to ensure those actually buying the alcohol are old enough - they do not have any control over who actually drinks it, where they drink it or how they behave whereas the pub / club has to be responsible for all of those things.......hardly balanced is it?
I'm all for taking responsibility for MY customers but I shouldn't be penalised for the behaviour of those who have purchased their alcohol elsewhere

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What's to be done?

Posted by Graham Bell,

First, all authorities must stop running scared, and face up to their responsibility to introduce law that is workable and respected, and seen to be upheld by "ALL" responsible for the sale of alcohol, on-trade and off-trade.

To be fair to "ALL" the pricing differential between on trade and off trade has to narrowed.

This is not a profit and loss issue, it relates directly to the cause of a problem. A difficult problem for any Government to now solve, and damage caused to the on-trade may now be permanent.

The on-trade would support lower prices but I doubt the off-trade or their customers would support higher prices.

So we are where we are, until "ALL" stand together to face up responsibility, and the challenge to prevent alcohol abuse, when sold or consumed.

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Binge Drinking

Posted by Nigel Wakefield,

Before Local Authorities took control, the amount of On Licences was based a justified need. Now LA's will grant a licence anywhere in towns, causing a massive over supply. The large companies are all competing and offering incentives to get people inside, which we all know about, the same places are always a source of trouble. Add in cheap supermarket booze for pre loaders and we have a problem.
If the Police had two strikes (Complaints) and the pub/bar/night club lost it's licence permanently, everyone would clean up their act. Unfortunately the LA's are terrified to do this because of the cost of legal appeals, as with the major developers, too many LA's have lost a fortune with aggressive corporations opposing planning issues endless times.
The licensing Officers that I have spoken to have said they are all running scared of taking a licence away and the resultant cost.
It used to be, that the licensee was responsible for the people on his premises, not push them out of the door and let someone else deal with it. The Door Staff should be responsible to the licensee for the people that they let and the people that they put on the street and there should be draconian fines for putting drunks on the street, again they would very quickly sort it out.
Again my discussions with licensing officers fell on deaf ears including the local Police Commissioner, he was under a degree of pressure from the LA, in case they lost the rates on offending closed establishments.
The whole lot wants cleaning up and get the drunks off the street, if the bars had to sober up the drunks before they were allowed to leave, they would soon clean up their act.
I had stiff rocket from the licensing Officer for a minor infringement years ago and I didn't do it again, that's how it should be, not revolving licensees and nobody gives a toss about the law, the company will defend their interests right or wrong to protect their investment.
I would love to have a serious discussion with this Chief of Police.

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