Friday 25 September 2009

Alcohol crime

I'm normally in support of the bloggers who complain about the Government's incessant neo-prohibitionist stance. In the main it really is annoying and generally way off target. It's the blanket regulation that annoys me. The solution to the problem is, as always, make some new rules up rather than ensure the existing ones are applied. Curmudgeon is a good one for complaining about such things and I broadly agree with what he says. Pete Brown, by his own admission, is getting slightly obsessive about the media coverage of alcohol related health and disorder problems, I think he has a point, about media coverage that is, not his obsession.

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.


Curmudgeon said...

As in many other areas of life, the authorities find it easier to restrict everybody rather than effectively cracking down on an irresponsible minority.

However, as I commented on another blog, I think the style of drunken disorder has changed. There may be a lot of people being loud and rowdy and throwing up, but I don't think you see the fighting that used to happen thirty or forty years ago. That may be part of the reason there are fewer arrests.

Cooking Lager said...

Whilst I agree with much of what you have said and also agree with much that Pete Brown says as well as Curmudgy, I think the failure lies in criticising the proposed solutions to real problems, without accepting there is a problem and proposing a more effective solution. Compared with our continental cousins, many in this country have a deeply unhealthy relationship with alcohol and their behaviour impacts on others in the form of anti social behaviour. The notion that rowdy no go areas are a myth whipped up by media frenzy is wrong. I suspect I’m a little younger than most, still being in my twenties, and see many town centres reminiscent of the worst of the anglicized youth appealing holiday resorts like Malia and San Antonio. I get dragged their by unattached pals who make me talk to orange coloured girls because my mates are too scared, and do so hoping to god the missus doesn’t find out, because it doesn’t matter that I did nothing but chat a group of lasses up for my mates and told the fat one I had a girlfriend, I was saying hello because my mate fancied yours, the missus would sulk for a week.

Our society has moved from the principle of individual responsibility for your own actions and moved towards an attitude that crime is society in generals’ fault. The solution is simply not to tolerate rowdy unpleasant drunken behaviour in public. To make it as unacceptable in Bolton town centre as it is in a beer garden in Germany, and if necessary have criminal sanction greater than a slap on the wrist for those that vomit, fight and spend their Friday evenings assaulting staff in the local A&E. I agree that booze price is not an answer, nor preventing the law abiding from enjoying a late night drink. Until effective solutions are proposed, rather than denying the problem, those with the wrong solution will win the argument. When something needs to be done, something usually ends up being done. It’s about ensuring that something is the right something.

How's that for an essay.

Unknown said...

Follow that.....

Anonymous said...

I don't think I've ever seen the rozzers in Eskdale, let alone at your pub Dave. Probably did not want to face the task of escorting me back to the Youth Hostel, and cleaning the upholstery afterwards.

I think one problem that exists is the availability of crap drinks such as WKD Blue and their wide availability in crappy plastic town centre "pubs" and clubs and bars.

In my youthful years you entered the local in some awe, had a pint of bitter or mild, sat down and behaved yourself, whilst showing the regulars great respect. And how bad that first pint of beer tasted!

Then gradually you became a regular, surrounded by older and more responsible people who would soon knock you down if you acted the twat. You would learn in this responsible drinking environment how to behave whilst drinking probably rather more than the recommended dose.

Nowadays younger drinkers do not serve such an apprenticeship but instead go to the plastic bars, get off their tits on alcopops and cheap shots, fall over, vomit, fight (usually egged on by their drunken slapper girlfriends aka slapper for the night) and generally cause havoc. The only "responsible" adults in these establishments are the bouncers (God forbid).

That is not to say I have not witnessed (not taken part in though) some appalling acts of drunken violence down my spit and sawdust local. But such occasions can be counted on one hand over the last twenty years.


Unknown said...

Washy, our friends in blue do visit, however only at our invitation normally. Sometimes I think a casual visit, uninvited, might actually make people think.

Tandleman said...

Cookie said "The solution is simply not to tolerate rowdy unpleasant drunken behaviour in public. To make it as unacceptable in Bolton town centre as it is in a beer garden in Germany, and if necessary have criminal sanction greater than a slap on the wrist for those that vomit, fight and spend their Friday evenings assaulting staff in the local A&E"

Yep. Less agonising and a lot more law enforcement would be good. Can't fault any of that except missing out birching the buggers. Mind you our society is so flawed now, I am unsure how we'd start to recover a position of self responsibility, decency and understanding plain old right and wrong.

As for the orange coloured girls, Cookster, I fear you protest too much and you are a handsome beast.

Even Steven said...

I don't have an issue with government or authority generally. I think a lot of people do, and their kneejerk reaction whne presented with any government policy is to moan. It's sad that some people feel so disenfranchised, but it's all in their own head so what are we to do?

Anonymous said...

1)In my experience, when invoking these laws in my own place, the police have been very happy to help,

2) In turn the police only step in when the licensee asks these days, anything else is seen as interference with the business.

In reference to your points, I would agree that they tend to turn a blind eye and not interfere. However the concept of "happy to help" especially with regard to occasional trouble in a pub I do not agree with. Here in Liverpool (suburbs) they do not turn up. If they do it is normally the next day. They do bugger all, yet cause landlords all types of grief.


Unknown said...

I think I'd defer to your experience on this one Dave. I did blog in haste about this story, and was wondering if I'd called it right a little later. I now don't think I did.

But I think there was still a small valid side to my initial reaction - in all the press coverage I saw, the very notion that it might even in part be due to an actual drop in alcohol-related disorder was never even considered. OK, I think I now accept that policing has become more lax. But binge drinking IS falling - every independent study shows that it is, consistently, for almost a decade now. And this never even gets a mention.

Zak Avery said...

I'm surprised to find myself agreeing with Cookie. Finding myself in the glorious position of being nearly 40 with a 10 month old son, I wonder how on earth I'm going to bring him up with the morals necessary to make the world a better place.

I think that a lot of drunks are actually like tiny children, albeit with bigger fists and more swear words. They need to realise that there is no action without consequence, and no rights without responsibilities.

I'll defend to the death anyone's right to do whatever they want, to tattoo, pierce and amputate parts of their body, ingest whatever substances they need, in whatever quantities they require, in order to have a good time. But the moment any of that starts to spoil someone else's day, that's when they need to be told, or made, to stop.

Unknown said...


I agree generally with you on the subject of negative press coverage of alcohol. In this case you may also be right that there is a lack of balance.


Whole heartedly agree. What people do to themselves should not be a concern of others, providing it affects nobody less. It is possible to get bladdered and be nice, I know, we have people who come here and do it from time to time. But there is no excuse for making other peoples lives a misery.

The issue does become more focused when you have children, that's for sure.

Whorst said...

Avery, get your son to start drinking out of over-sized wine glasses, instead of sippy cups.
An education in stemware can do wonders at an early age.

Zak Avery said...

Soss, he was after some Sam Adams Boston Lager the other day. I nearly let him, but a man's got to have standards - it was a plastic pint mug, for goodness sake!

Curmudgeon said...

There's a particularly hysterical and sensationalist piece in the Daily Wail here.

Unfortunately some sections of society have lost the art of drinking within their limits - for too many, it is "all or nothing".