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Home Secretary's Speech on Tackling Drunken Violence and Disorder

The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, spoke to an audience of police, local authority licensing officers and representatives from the alcohol and retail industries about problem drinking.  She made clear that the focus of her concern “is squarely on the serious harm that alcohol misuse can cause – on that problematic minority of drinkers who cause the violence, the disorder and the disruption.”

Ms Smith set out the government targets for reductions in the harm that alcohol causes:

  • less alcohol-related violence
  • fewer people experiencing drunkenness and rowdiness in their area
  • fewer admitted to hospital for acute alcohol-related illnesses
  • fewer children drinking alcohol

She referred to the ‘problematic minority’ and spoke about actions to be taken with regard to three groups:

Underage drinkers
The police already have powers to confiscate alcohol from under 18s in public places, if they have reasonable suspicion that the children will consume the alcohol. Ms Smith said that if the requirement to prove reasonable suspicion prevents police from enforcing this law, she will change the law to enable them to use their discretion.

She also recognised the importance of parental responsibility in underage drinking. She said that Parenting Contracts would be used to “support parents who find it difficult to fulfil their responsibilities. But where they are unwilling or unable to fulfil their parental responsibilities, others should not have to suffer.”

Binge drinkers, aged 18-24
To discourage this group from drinking excessively, the government plans to launch “a multi-million pound national campaign that will … set out, in no uncertain terms, the dangers with binge drinking, and raise awareness on recommended units of intake and the dangers of regularly exceeding those levels.”

Irresponsible retailers
This group includes not only those who sell alcohol to under 18s, but also those selling to the already intoxicated and troublemakers. Ms Smith said that she will be writing to “every Chief Constable and local authority Chief Executive to set out the full range of powers available to them to move people along, to stop drinking in areas where it’s been a problem, and to close down dodgy premises.”

Finally, Ms Smith commended the alcohol industry for the steps it has already taken in “helping, genuinely, to lead the way on problem drinking and on the problems drinking causes.” She also announced that she is asking KPMG to review industry practice to test how well the standards agreed by the industry are being met by the industry.”