ACPO licensing lead demands compulsory 'alcohol flag' system

By Ellie Bothwell contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Police

An ONS report states that only a 'partial picture' exists on current statistics
An ONS report states that only a 'partial picture' exists on current statistics
The UK’s top policeman on alcohol and licensing has called for the introduction of a mandatory ‘alcohol flag’ system across all police forces, meaning officers would be required to highlight all crimes that are alcohol-related.

Adrian Lee, the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on alcohol licensing and harm reduction, said a compulsory scheme would allow the Government to collect accurate national data regarding the societal impacts of alcohol and help further the case for so-far abandoned policies like minimum pricing.

The call comes as new statistics show the number of violent incidents related to alcohol have fallen by 18% between 2013 and 2014 — to the lowest recorded level.

Lee said a 24-hour pilot of the system by his force in Northamptonshire showed that 35% of one-off instances were alcohol-related. However, he said the flag is not part of mandatory figures that police forces send to the Home Office and is used “very poorly in most forces, a little bit better in some and it’s not used brilliantly by anybody”.

Alcohol-related crime data

Speaking at the National Pubwatch Conference in Cheltenham last week, he said: “We don’t really understand the extent to which alcohol is fuelling incidents of crime. We haven’t got the data at national level to influence a national debate.

“So from an enforcement and harm prevention perspective, we are losing the arguments with the Treasury and elsewhere about decisions like minimum unit pricing and other key factors in trying to reduce the harm."

He called for all forces to gather the required data to get “a clearer picture”.

The Home Office confirmed it is working with police to improve the volume and quality of information it collects about alcohol-related incidents.

ONS figures

Separate figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last week showed 19% of all violent incidents occurred in or around a pub or club, and 93% of these were labelled as “alcohol-related” based on the victim perceiving the offender to be under the influence of alcohol.

However, the ONS report states: “It is possible that police forces have applied their own interpretation of what is meant by alcohol-related,” and “it is possible it is being used for some offences but not all”.

It said this means analysis of this data is limited to 21 of 43 forces in England and Wales, and therefore only provides “a partial and provisional picture”.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said the trade would welcome more accurate crime data because it has “real commercial implications for licensees who find themselves subject to police scrutiny”. She added: “One of
the problems is there is no national definition of an alcohol-related crime.”

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