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Crime and social impacts

Alcohol-related crime and social disorder is estimated to cost UK taxpayers £11bn per year, at 2010/11 prices.[1]

Alcohol-related crime makes up a substantial portion of violent offences across the UK (47% in England and Wales in 2014/15,[2] 54% in Scotland in 2014/15,[3] and 40% in Northern Ireland in 2015/16).[4] This supports the public perception of alcohol as one of the major causes of crime in urban Britain today.

The Conservative Government highlights drugs and alcohol as one of the six key drivers of crime in its Modern Crime Prevention Strategy.[5]

Research has highlighted the role of alcohol in domestic violence, sexual assault,[6] child abuse,[7] and violent crime including murder.[8]

Key features of the night time economy have been identified as possible contributors to alcohol-related crime including:

  • density of drinking establishments
  • encouraging higher consumption
  • extended drinking hours
  • vertical drinking establishments and high-risk premises
  • pre-loading and cheap alcohol
  • the role of the drinks industry

Problematic alcohol use has been identified as an issue at many stages of the criminal justice system.[9] Research has identified the needs of prisoners with alcohol problems were less likely to be met than for those with illicit drug problems.[10]

Alcohol places a significant burden on the emergency services. An IAS-survey found:

  • three-quarters of police and half of ambulance respondents have been injured in alcohol-related incidents[11]
  • between a third and a half of all servicepeople have suffered sexual harassment or abuse at the hands of intoxicated members of the public[12]
  • 78% of police, 65% of ambulance staff, and 35% of Emergency Department Consultants feel at risk of drunken assaults[13]

A number of policies aiming to reduce alcohol-related crime and social disorder exist at both a national and local level in the UK. These range from licensing regulations to tough custodial penalties for criminal behaviour linked to alcohol. Research indicates Minimum Unit Pricing presents an effective policy strategy.[14]

Click on links opposite to view each section of the factsheet online, or click on the image below to download the entire factsheet as a PDF (updated February 2017):


[1] (July 2013), Written evidence from the Department of Health (GAS 01), in ‘3rd report – Government's Alcohol Strategy’, Health Committee <>

[2] Office for National Statistics (ONS) (February 2016), Overview of violent crime and sexual offences, in ‘Focus on Violent Crime and Sexual Offences : Year ending March 2015’, p. 21 <>

[3] The Scottish Government (March 2016), ‘Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2014/15: Main Findings’, p. 49 <>

[4] Police Service of Northern Ireland (May 2016), ‘Police Recorded Crime in Northern Ireland: Monthly Update to 31 March 2016’, p. 12 <>

[5] Secretary of State for the Home Department (March 2016), ‘Modern Crime Prevention Strategy’, HM Government, p. 4 <>

[6] Galvani S (May 2010)., ‘Supporting families affected by substance use and domestic violence’, The Tilda Goldberg Centre for Social Work and Social Care, University of Bedfordshire, ADFAM, p. 5

[7] Galvani S. (June 2010)., ‘Grasping the Nettle: alcohol and domestic violence’, p. 3

[8] Foran H., and O’Leary K (2008)., ‘Alcohol and intimate partner violence: A meta-analytic review’, p. 1,223

[9] Hansard (July 2016), ‘Alcoholic Drinks: Misuse:Written question – 41699’ <>

[10] Community Justice Portal (February 2010), 'Prison Service Failing to Address Growing Problem of Alcohol Misuse in Prisons', from HM Inspectorate of Prisons (February 2010), 'Alcohol services in prisons: an unmet need' <>

[11] Institute of Alcohol Studies (October 2015), ‘Alcohol’s impact on emergency services’, p. 4 <>

[12] Ibid, p. 4

[13] Ibid, p. 4

[14] Meng Y., et al (January 2012), 'Model-based appraisal of alcohol minimum pricing and off-licensed trade discount bans in Scotland using the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (v.2): Second update based on newly available data', ScHARR, University of Sheffield, Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, pp. 60–62