UK alcohol-related crime statistics
‘Alcohol-related crime’ is a popular rather than a legal term. Normally, it is used to refer to 2 main categories of offences:
- Alcohol-defined offences such as drunkenness offences or driving with excess alcohol
- Offences in which the consumption of alcohol is thought to have played a role of some kind in the committing of the offence, usually in the sense that the offender was under the influence of alcohol at the time. Examples of offences often committed by people under the influence are assault, breach of the peace, criminal damage and other public order offences
It has been estimated that in a community of 100,000 people each year, 1,000 people will be a victim of alcohol-related violent crime. The Coalition Government lists a reduction in alcohol-fuelled violent crime among its core priorities in its Alcohol Strategy.
How alcohol-related crime data are counted
The Home Office Counting Rules and the National Crime Recording Standard govern police recording practice. Police recorded crime statistics cover all ‘notifiable’ offences recorded by the police for Home Office records. This does not include most minor summary offences (i.e. driving under the influence of alcohol), antisocial behaviour offences, crimes that have not been reported to the police, or that the police decide not to record. Therefore underreporting is a natural side-effect of this approach to counting. In the case of alcohol related crimes, underreporting is likely to occur as a result of the fact that, except in specific drunk and disorderly cases such as injury caused by drink driving, offenders are rarely tested for the presence of alcohol when caught. In addition to this, the victims of crime incidents may not always be able to detect whether the offender(s) was under the influence of alcohol.
Although they do not record the presence of alcohol on the person, police authorities do acknowledge that alcohol does have a significant role in criminal activity, because its effects on the mind and body are thought to be more likely to induce antisocial behaviour, leading to criminal acts. For most offences, alcohol may affect the perpetrator: for violent crimes, it reduces self-control; for acquisitive crimes, the motivation can be the need to feed a habit.
The large-scale annual crime surveys conducted in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland complement police recorded crime data by including non-notifiable offences, as well as the detailed responses by victims on the specific nature of the crimes suffered.
The Crime Survey for England and Wales [CSEW] is based on a sample of approximately 50,000 households. The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey [SCJS] is based on 16,000 face-to-face interviews conducted with adults (aged 16 or over). The Northern Ireland Crime Survey [NICS] is based on the responses of 4,000 adults. Crime survey statistics were formerly published as part of the British Crime Survey, although it ceased to include Scotland in its sample in the late 1980s. It is important to note that, as household surveys, none of these statistical publications cover crimes committed against businesses.
The National Probation Service advises offenders that ‘alcohol is a factor related to a lot of crimes including many assaults, murder and rape cases (between 50 and 80%)’. Some national crime surveys place a special focus on the influence of alcohol on violent crime by asking victims whether they believe their offender(s) to have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the incident.
Alcohol-related crime in England & Wales
According to the 2011/12 CSEW, there were 917,000 violent incidents where the victim believed the offender(s) to be under the influence of alcohol, accounting for 47% of violent offences committed that year. This represents a rise of 3 percentage points on the previous year [2010/11].
Figure 1: Violent incidents where the victim believed the offender(s) to be under the influence of alcohol in England & Wales, 2001/02 to 2011/12
Source: Office for National Statistics [ONS] (2012), ‘Crime Statistics, Nature of Crime tables, 2011/12’
Figure 1 illustrates little variation in the annual number of alcohol fuelled violent crimes in England and Wales over the past decade. Between 2001/02 and 2006/07, there were roughly just over a million alcohol-related violent crimes committed every year, peaking in 2003/04 at 1.3m, or 51% of all violent crimes. Since then, the annual figure has dipped slightly under the million mark, but alcohol still accounts for over 40% of all violent crimes committed.
Alcohol-related crime in Scotland
The estimated number of violent crimes was 220,000 in 2010/11, according to the SCJS of that year; 63% of these incidents were said to have occurred under the influence of alcohol, a higher proportion than in England. 22% of violent crimes happened in or around a pub, bar or club and 46% occurred at the weekend between 6pm and 6am.
Alcohol-related crime in Northern Ireland
The NICS does not record alcohol related crime data for Northern Ireland. The Police Service of Northern Ireland [PSNI] began collecting provisional statistics on alcohol-related recorded crime in April 2012. For the 7 month period beginning 1st April – 19th November 2012, 19% of all recorded crime [12,037 incidents] and 11% of all antisocial behaviour recorded by PSNI were alcohol related.
Figure 2: Violent incidents where the victim believed the offender(s) to be under the influence of alcohol in Northern Ireland, 1st April – 19th November 2012
Source: Police Service of Northern Ireland [PSNI]
 Home Office, 'Police recorded crime'