Binge Drinking Violence Creating ‘No Go Areas’

(Independent) – BOOZE-FUELLED VIOLENCE is creating “no-go areas” across England and Wales, a Government-funded poll revealed today.

One person in every four said they avoided parts of their local area because of crime and disorder linked to alcohol abuse.

The results of the study were released as the Government confirmed measures aimed at tackling alcohol misuse will come into force before the General Election.

Speed drinking games, volume drinks promotions and pouring alcohol directly into drinkers’ mouths will be banned from April, Home Secretary Alan Johnson announced.

The Tories also laid out their plans to tackle problem drinking with a pledge to “take back” town centres and roll back so-called “24-hour drinking”.

Alcopops and super-strength beer and cider would face higher levies, they said, and bars and clubs wanting late night licences would be hit with a tax to pay for policing.

The poll revealed widespread support for a ban on drinks promotions in supermarkets and off licences in problem areas.

Half of those questioned said bulk buy and other offers should be prohibited where disorder is rife.

Ministers have dropped plans to allow councils to ban happy hours in pubs and bulk offers from alcohol retailers in problem zones.

Mr Grayling said: “It’s time we took back control of our town and city centres on a Friday and Saturday night, and turned them back into places where people can have a good night out without the fear of being caught up in a culture of binge drinking and anti-social behaviour,” he said.

“We need to scrap the Government’s late-night licensing regime, give local people back powers over the number of licensed premises in their areas, and introduce charges for late-night licences to pay for better policing.

“We can’t go on with the binge-drinking culture that has built up under Labour.”

Mr Johnson said the ban on games, and measures to force pubs to provide tap water for free would come into force in April and help deal with “irresponsible” retailers.

From October, bars will be forced to offer smaller drink sizes, he said.

The poll, carried out by Ipsos-Mori, revealed widespread ignorance of rules that allow bars to offer spirits in either 25ml or 35ml measures.

More than half of those questioned (52%) said they thought a single measure was the same everywhere.

Mr Johnson said: “Alcohol-related crime costs the UK billions of pounds every year and while the vast majority of retailers are responsible, a minority continue to run irresponsible promotions which fuel the excessive drinking that leads to alcohol-related crime and disorder.

“These practices have a real impact on society, not to mention the lives of those who just want to enjoy a good night out.

“The Government and the industry have a duty to act, this mandatory code will allow us to take action against an issue which affects us all.”

The British Beer and Pub Association said the measures were unbalanced because they did not target drinks sold through supermarkets.

Concerns have been raised about drinkers “pre-loading” with booze before going on a night out.

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said 70% of alcohol is sold through supermarkets.

She said: “We have consistently supported legislation to crack down on irresponsible promotions in pubs and supermarkets.

“However, with nearly 70% of all alcohol now sold through supermarkets, the pub-centric measures announced today are lopsided and unbalanced.

“Pubs are struggling and the country is in recession. This is not the time for the Home Office to be burying business in yet more unnecessary red tape.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “Booze Britain is ruining lives and costing the country billions, but Labour has not only failed to tackle alcohol misuse, it has allowed an epidemic of drink-fuelled crime and illness to take hold.

“Now the Government is ignoring its own expensive advice and experts, who say the best way to reduce alcohol misuse is to stop booze being sold at pocket money prices.”

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians and chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said the Government’s move was “a welcome direction of travel” but argued that minimum unit prices for alcohol would be more effective in cutting problem drinking.

The new rules amounted to an admission that voluntary codes for the drinks industry had failed, he told the BBC.

Setting a minimum price for booze would be more effective, he said.

“Minimum unit pricing is very attractive because it doesn’t affect the price of a pint in a pub or a glass of wine in a restaurant but it does target the heavy drinkers and the under-age drinkers who target the cheapest drinks.”

* Ipsos Mori questioned 1,710 people in England and Wales in July last year.