Recent figures show that the number of drunk and disorderly convictions has dropped dramatically. Pete Brown said "you just can't win" and complained about the press reporting of this fact. Most press stories pointed out that it might be due to less effective policing rather than an actual drop in alcohol related crime. Personally, I think the press got this one right. I really do think that the police and authorities are much more reluctant these days to apply the law of the land. Instead of sorting out the problems, new laws are made that don't work either, because nobody is prepared to actually apply the law as it stands.
I commented to some very nice people in my bar a few weeks ago that all this alcohol related guff in the press was over exaggerated and really it's a load of fuss about nothing. They disagreed with me, interesting considering they had probably already drunk more than their recommended daily intake, and didn't look like stopping. They felt that town centres are just getting worse and worse. OK, it could be middle aged people are always going to have that view, but I can't help feeling they have a point.
The crux of the matter is that it's not the volume of alcohol people drink, it is their attitude to it. A few irresponsible people are causing a great deal of harm to the industry and the vast majority of sensible drinkers freedoms are suffering because of it. The policing of very old laws, or rather the lack of it, is the problem and this could do with being looked at rather than sweeping it under the carpet.
I believe there still exists a law that permits a licensee to refuse entry to his establishment or to insist that a person leaves his establishment. It is indeed a criminal offence to serve a drunk alcohol or to permit a third party to buy alcohol for a drunk. In my experience, when invoking these laws in my own place, the police have been very happy to help, if I required it. It seems today we are expected to be more customer focused, refusing to serve a drunk because it is a criminal offence is seen to be less important than keeping the customer happy. In turn the police only step in when the licensee asks these days, anything else is seen as interference with the business. I believe the police should be more proactive than they are in curtailing irresponsible alcohol consumption and retail.
So, I maintain that reduction in convictions for being drunk and disorderly is indeed primarily because the police and licensees are less keen to take action against offenders. I do not believe it is because we are getting more responsible. I run a responsible house and it gets me all sorts of bad press. If we wish to be able to enjoy drinking responsibly we need to apply the very satisfactory laws, without fear or favour. I believe the bad press surrounding alcohol is primarily created by a reluctance to enforce these laws on the very small minority who flaunt them.
This is all making me sound a bit like the prohibitionists, which I really don't think I am. I believe people should be permitted to enjoy whatever volumes of alcohol they like and wherever they like providing they don't cause any problems to anybody else. Basically, getting drunk should not be a problem. Getting drunk and making a dickhead of yourself, as a minority of people do, should result in action. I'd like to see an increase of people being thrown out of, or possibly being banned from pubs, locked up in the cells for the night, cautioned and if necessary prosecuted1.
As an aside, the topic #guinness250 on twitter last night had a few people complaining about irresponsible Guinness consumption - So Diagio, is bulk selling of alcohol really the most responsible thing to do? "Enjoy your Guinness responsibly" they say.
1Hopefully, if this were to happen, more of us would be able to knock back a few until we barely remember what we did and then stagger back to our tents causing only minor inconvenience while we ask to be shown how to turn on our torch. You know who you are, but you'll have to try harder if you want to be banned.