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.”