Sorting through the blog the other day, I realised that I hadn’t commented recently on the current scourge of British society for a while. The topic that countless politicians have talked about addressing for years, one that successive governments have failed to remedy with their piecemeal measures to combat it and, large proportions of society are affected by on an almost daily basis. I refer of course to the subject of Booze Britain.
Previously I have discussed the attributes held by the products of this blight in Young lady of class. I have also berated the violence in Booze Yobs and vociferously questioned the relevancy and worth of introducing even More Booze Tax.
Successive governments have been under a misguided misapprehension that; the problems could be fixed with short term initiatives. Measures like the introduction of extended licensing hours in 2005 were implemented in an attempt to develop a British café culture. The simple imposition of extra tax has been tried however, all have been totally unsuccessful. A year on from the change in licensing laws there are still the same old troubles and if anything, they are worse today than they previously were. The adverse affects on our society in terms of ill health and injury, public and domestic violence and all the additional financial expense as a consequence has been enormous.
Last week the Rt Hon Teresa May MP (latest Home Secretary) unveiled plans to overhaul the laws (again) and admitted; the promised benefits of a “cafe culture” had failed to materialise. This viewpoint was also endorsed by Sir Hugh Orde (ACPO) who said that; 24-hour drink licensing laws were a “mistake” (BBC News).
So, where did it all go wrong, why haven’t the implemented measures worked and most importantly, where do we go from here?
Firstly, we need to use the laws we currently have AND robustly enforce them, a difficulty when you consider the current low availability of police response officers. All the relatively new legislation relating to alcohol in public places is not worth the paper it was written on, if it isn’t applied. We also need to ensure those who flout the regulations relating to the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors, actually feel the full weight of the laws designed to combat the issue. And just as important, we need a legal system that successfully processes those offenders. We also need those involved in the sale of alcohol to take more responsibility for the manner in which their premises are operated, the staff they employ and, to actually take some ownership of their responsibilities relating to the problem.
Secondly, it’s time to listen to the recent words of our new Prime minister; comments such as “let’s be innovative” or the suggestion we should adopt “radical methods” need to be turned from rhetoric and political spin into, acts of substance and reality. But how do we do this?
For anyone who has travelled to other European countries (or further afield), the problem of under age drinking and/or alcohol associated violence and disorder is usually fairly absent. Apart that is from those incidents involving British nationals! So why do those countries apparently experience less of a problem?
One of the fundamental differences in all the countries I have visited is; there still appears to be a level of inherent respect for others, for parents and for authority; a commodity which appears to be in tornado strength decline in our country. This decline is now to some extent endemic and therefore, it is likely to take just as long to fix as it did to become the norm.
We (the British) also look at alcohol as the sole aim of our evening out and reason for our enjoyment, instead of it being ancillary to relaxation and social interaction? It is not uncommen to hear youngsters say “going out at the weekend to get totally shit faced and out of my head”?
For the above reasons alone; all the liberal methodology of issuing health guidance or educating kids about the dangers of drink and, trusting the public not to binge drink (by giving them longer hours to get out of their skulls), have failed. Therefore, perhaps it’s actually time to get a little more draconian with our ideas?
Many will think of the USA when they think of ‘draconian alcohol laws’ indeed, there are areas in states where it has only become legal to drink alcohol within my lifetime. Before people start screaming ‘human rights’ or ‘the crucifixion of business interests’, I’m not for one minute promoting a US Prohibition methodology however; I am suggesting that perhaps the time is right to adopt some aspects of the American legislative thinking on alcohol?
Having traveled in various states within the USA, I am aware that their laws differ slightly from state to state (sometimes county to county) however, one alcohol law that is consistent throughout the country is; all U.S. states have a minimum purchase age of 21. Being asked for ID prior to purchase is also the norm. This is a factor that no one appears to have an issue with in fact; it is second nature for most Americans to produce a driver’s licence along with their pack of beer at the checkout, irrespective of actual or apparent age. Most states also impose a strength limit on the beer available for sale. In some states, this %ABV limit actually differs and is usually lower in supermarkets or grocery/convenience stores than it is in registered liquor stores.
I’m not so dim as to believe under age drinking does not take place in the USA however, I do believe the rigid application (and enforcement) of the laws make it less of a problem. In addition, any overt intoxication in public is also usually frowned upon and dealt with. My son (at University in Oklahoma) will attest to having been corralled and herded back to college by the local police, if he or any of his friends showed signs of over indulgence. I also don’t think any of my friends in that part of the world would offer any substantive complaint about Oklahoma Alcohol Legislation.
So why is it that despite age old Drunk & Disorderly or Drunk & Incapable offences, falling around out of your head in a stupor or, being violent and/or obscene to others appears to have become de rigueur in the UK? Leaving any long standing cultural issues aside (which can’t be changed overnight), it’s a simple case of inadequate or poorly enforced legislation.
All we need is some innovative and robust action… Tsssk, Simples!
- The Spoilt Generation: Why Restoring Authority Will Make Our Children and Society Happier
- Drunk and disorderly: a qualitative study of binge drinking among 18-24 year olds
- Cameron backs cheap alcohol crackdown (channel4.com)
- Why did the 24 hour drinking culture fail?Because we are not Mediterraneans (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- 24-hour drinking: Preserving good pubs will help our drinking problem (telegraph.co.uk)
- With three litres of cider costing £1.18, why doesn’t the Government back minimum pricing for alcoholic drinks? (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)