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Alcohol is seen as one of the major causes of crime in urban Britain today. It is associated with a million crimes in the UK every year.
Alcohol-related crime makes up a substantial portion of violent offences across the UK in particular (39% in England and Wales in 2017/18, 54% in Scotland in 2014/15, and 40% in Northern Ireland in 2016/17), and is estimated to cost between 1.3 and 2.7% of the UK annual GDP (£21-£52 billion), according to a 2016 Public Health England report.
Alcohol also places a significant burden on the emergency services – three quarters of police and half of ambulance respondents have been injured in alcohol-related incidents – while research has also highlighted the role of alcohol in domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and violent crime including murder.
A number of drivers of alcohol-related crime identified include price, the density and types of premises, and extended drinking hours. Policies aiming to address these drivers exist at both a national and local level in the UK. These range from licensing regulations to tough penalties for criminal behaviour linked to alcohol. Research suggests Minimum Unit Pricing also presents an effective policy option.
Facts and stats
- In 2019/20, 42% of all violent crimes occurred where the victim believed the offender(s) to be under the influence of alcohol (ONS, 2020)
- Alcohol-related violence victimisation is disproportionately clustered in the lowest socioeconomic groups. Lower socioeconomic groups are also more likely to experience high frequency alcohol-related anti-social behaviour. (Bryant, L. 2020)
How much crime is alcohol-related in England and Wales? by The Institute of Alcohol Studies
- The proportion of violent crimes involving offenders under the influence of alcohol has fallen from just over 3 in 5 in 2008/09 to around 2 in 5 in 2019/20
How much crime is alcohol-related in Scotland? by The Institute of Alcohol Studies
- Survey data is unavailable. However, police data suggests the following:
- Between 2012/13 and 2021/22, around one in five crimes recorded by the police have been flagged with an alcohol motivation.
- There were 23,046 of such offences in 2021/22
- Sexual offences with an alcohol motivation represented 14.3% of all sexual offences in 2020/21
- Around half of all violence with injury offences and two fifths of violence without injury offences have been given an alcohol motivation. (PSNI, 2022)
- England and Wales: 13,000 Penalty Notices for Disorder (PND) were issued in relation to non-notifiable offences for the year ending September 2017, the majority of which related to drunk and disorderly behaviour. (ONS, 2018)
- Scotland: Consuming alcohol in a public place was the third most commonly issued Anti-Social Behaviour Fixed Penalty Notice (ASBPN) in 2017/18, making up 1/5 of all notices given. (Scot Gov, 2019)
- Northern Ireland: Data is not held for exactly how many PNDs issued are related to alcohol, although there is one offence referring specifically to alcohol related behaviour – ‘simple drunk’ – for which 41 PNDs were issued in 2016.
- A survey examining the North West of England found that:
- 43% of respondents felt annoyed by people vomiting or urinating in the street after drinking
- 49.4% were kept awake by drunken noise
- Over 1 in 10 perceive people being drunk or rowdy in their area to be a very or fairly big problem. (ONS, 2023)
- Alcohol is the second most commonly identified major cause of crime in Northern Ireland
What are the public’s perceptions of alcohol-related crime in Northern Ireland? by The Institute of Alcohol Studies
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