Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Written evidence from Alcohol Concern (ASB 04)

1. ABOUT ALCOHOL CONCERN

1.1 Alcohol Concern is the leading national charity in England and Wales working on alcohol issues. Our goal is to improve people’s lives through reducing the harm caused by alcohol. We have an ambitious long-term aim to change the drinking culture in this country. We want to live in a world where people can manage the risks and make sense of alcohol.

1.2 In our evidence to the Anti Social Behaviour Bill Committee, we are highlighting the issue of anti social behaviour (ASB) and its association with cheap alcohol.

2. SUMMARY

"From a policing point of view, sadly, a huge percentage of the work we’re involved in is a result of alcohol-related incidents."

Chief Constable Adrian Lee, Northamptonshire [1]

2.1 It is well-established that alcohol increases incidences of crime and ASB. Despite measures introduced via the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 that have provided police and licensing authorities with additional powers to tackle irresponsible premises and crack down on sales to minors, both of which are known to fuel incidents of crime and disorder in local communities, alcohol-related ASB and crime remain a key concern for communities across in England and Wales.

2.2 Alcohol Concern is of the view that the Bill is unlikely to be fully effective in reducing ASB and crime unless measures are adopted at a national level that reduce the affordability of alcohol, in particular the implementation of a minimum unit price for alcohol.

3. ALCOHOL AND ASB

3.1 It is well-established that alcohol is a key driver in rates of crime and ASB in England and Wales. In recent decades there has grown a culture of ‘drinking to get drunk’. Recent qualitative research conducted on behalf of Alcohol Concern, for example, found that heavy drinking is typically regarded by drinkers as an essential part of ‘a good night out’, with drunkenness seen by some as not only acceptable, but as something to look forward to, even though it often led to regrettable incidents, including causing nuisance and harm to others. [1] Moreover, nearly half of all violent crime is believed to have been carried out by individuals under the influence of alcohol. [2]

3.2 Measures introduced via the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 have provided police and licensing authorities in England and Wales with additional powers to tackle irresponsible premises and crack down on sales to minors, both of which are known to fuel incidents of crime and disorder in local communities. The UK Government is also exploring giving NHS Protect (the body that works to identify and tackle crime across the health service) the power to apply ASB injunctions on individuals who persistently cause problems in hospitals, for example being disruptive and abusive as a result of drinking too much.

3.3 Nevertheless, alcohol-related ASB and crime remain a key concern in communities across England and Wales. A YouGov survey of over 2,000 adults found that a third (33 per cent) of respondents regarded their town and city centres as no-go areas after dark for this reason. [3] Likewise, a survey conducted on behalf of Tesco in 2010 found that 61 per cent of its customers were concerned about ASB as a result of drinking. [4]

4. CHEAP ALCOHOL

"Making alcohol less affordable is the most effective way of reducing the harm it causes among a population."

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence [1]

4.1 The Government’s Alcohol Strategy rightly recognises the need to reduce the availability of cheap alcohol, highlighting the fact that alcohol has been so heavily discounted that it is now possible to buy a can of lager for as little as 20p or a two litre bottle of cider for £1.69. [5] Alcohol is 45 per cent more affordable than it was in 1980. [6]

4.2 An increasing body of evidence shows that reducing the affordability of alcohol is a key factor in driving down rates of crime and ASB. [7] A meta-analysis of the effects of alcohol prices and taxes on drinking, by Wagenaar et al, concluded that "price affects drinking of all types of beverages, and across the population of drinkers from light drinkers to heavy drinkers. We know of no other preventative intervention to reduce drinking that has the numbers of studies and consistency of effects seen in the literature on alcohol taxes and prices" (p187). [8]

4.3 Alcohol Concern has been campaigning for a minimum unit pricing (MUP) for a number of years, and we were consequently very pleased with the Government’s decision last year to adopt this measure. Subsequent media reports suggesting that plans for MUP in England and Wales have been dropped are therefore disappointing.

4.4 We continue, along with numerous other health bodies, to back the implementation of a 50p per unit minimum price, with the best available evidence showing that it will cut crime and disorder, and save lives. A Sheffield University study in 2009 calculated that a minimum unit price of 50p would see a 7.2% reduction in alcohol consumption, resulting in 8,900 fewer hospital admissions and 4,200 less crimes per year. [9]

4.5 A positive effect of MUP might also be to encourage alcohol producers to reduce the alcoholic content of their products. [10] Wine usually has an alcohol content of 12%, meaning that a standard bottle contains 9 units of alcohol. A bottle selling at a price for 3 bottles for £10 would cost £3.33 and a MUP of 50p would increase this to £4.50; however, by reducing the alcohol content to 9%, the price could still be £3.38, thus facilitating a reduction in alcohol content. This is important as strong alcohol is associated with high levels of ASB. A recent initiative in Ipswich which facilitated the removal of high-strength alcoholic beverages from sale in the off-trade resulted in the number of reported "street drinker events" in the town, including crimes and ASB, falling by 49 per cent in six months. [11]

June 2013


[1] Quoted at BBC News Online (10 April 2013), online, available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-22094183 [Accessed 07/05/2013].

[1] Alcohol Concern (2010) A drinking nation? Wales and alcohol , London, Alcohol Concern.

[2] 44% of all violent crimes as perceived by victims, constituting 928,000 violent crimes. Source: British Crime Survey 2010.11.

[3] YouGov survey (2009). Full results available from Alcohol Concern.

[4] See Channel 4 News (21 May 2010), online, available from http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/business_money/tesco+backs+minimum+price+for+alcohol/3655487.html

[1] National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2010) Alcohol-use disorders: Preventing the development of hazardous and harmful drinking: PH24 , London, NICE.

[5] Home Office (2012) The Government’s Alcohol Strategy , London, HM Government, p6.

[6] Statistics on Alcohol: Engla nd 2012, NHS Information Centre .

[7] Bailey, J. et al. (2011) Achieving Positive Change in the Drinking Culture of Wales , Glyndŵr University Wrexham and Bangor University, London, Alcohol Concern.

[8] Wagenaar, A. C., Salois, M. J. and Komro, K. A. (2008) Effects of beverage alcohol price and tax levels on drinking: A meta-analysis of 1003 estimates from 112 studies , Presented at the 34 th Annual Alcohol Epidemiology Symposium of the Kettil Bruun Society for Social and Epidemiological Research on Alcohol, Vicotir, British Columbia, June 2-6, 2008.

[9] School of Health and Related Research (2009) Model-Based Appraisal of Alcohol Minimum Pricing and Off-Licensed Trade Discount Bans in Scotland: An Scottish Adaptation of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model version 2 , online, available from http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2009/09/24131201/0 [Accessed 04/04/2012].

[10] ibid.

[11] BBC News Online (3 April 2013), online, available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-22019200 [Accessed 07/05/2013].

Prepared 20th June 2013