August 30, 2008

Bad Law Fuelling City’s Booze Crisis

Many of the problems with vandalism, yobbish behaviour, petty crime and violence, particularly in Plymouth's city centre, are fuelled by the excessive use of alcohol. New official figures showing a soaring number of hospital admissions due to alcohol misuse are deeply alarming, as it is pushing up crime and disorder. It has been found to be a significant factor in violent crime, public disorder, and perceptions of crime. Worryingly, as much as half of violent crime is known to be drink-related and is also a key factor in the kind of anti-social behaviour, low-level disorder and intimidation that degrades our city centre.

According to research by the NHS Information Centre, admissions to NHS hospitals due to alcohol have soared by 52 per cent over the last decade and one in 10 of all these incidents involved those under the legal drinking age. This growing trend has coincided with new Government-imposed 24- hour licensing laws and a failure to effectively enforce the laws which exist against under-age drinking.

I personally have no problem with adults having a responsible night out. It is becoming apparent that under-age and binge- drinking is fuelling crime and anti-social behaviour - just when ministers are constantly declaring that they are clamping down on alcohol- related violence; these new figures would suggest otherwise.

Unless some substantive action is taken soon, the situation will continue to deteriorate. The failure to enforce the law sends totally the wrong message about under-age drinking. We need greater responsibility, more powers for local communities over licensing and an end to some parents turning a blind eye to children's drinking.

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