UK Government

Home Office: Government reveals tough new powers to tackle alcohol crime

Press Release   •   Jan 19, 2010 11:20 GMT

A ban on irresponsible promotions including “all you can drink for £10” deals plus a compulsory requirement to check under 18s for ID are among the final conditions of a proposed mandatory code for alcohol retailers, Home Secretary Alan Johnson announced today.

Following a nationwide consultation, that generated more than 7,000 responses, the government is today setting out five mandatory conditions to tackle alcohol-related crime and disorder, which costs the UK an estimated £8 billion to £13 billion a year.

The conditions will be applied to all alcohol retailers to ensure consistent good practice and crack down on problem premises where irresponsible drinking could put individuals at risk and lead to crime and anti-social behaviour.

The proposed conditions are:

* Banning irresponsible promotions such as “all you can drink for £10” offers, women drink free deals and speed drinking competitions. These promotions encourage people to drink quickly or irresponsibly and could lead to crime or antisocial behaviour.

* Banning “dentist’s chairs” where drink is poured directly into the mouths of customers making it impossible for them to control the amount they are drinking.

* Ensuring free tap water is available for customers - allowing people to space out their drinks and reduce the risks of becoming dangerously drunk.

* Ensuring all those who sell alcohol have an age verification policy in place requiring them to check the ID of anyone who looks under 18 to prevent underage drinking which can lead to anti-social behaviour and put young people at risk of harm.

* Ensuring that all on trade premises make available small measures of beers, wine and spirits to customers so customers have the choice between a single or double measure of spirits and a large or small glass of wine.

Any premises that breach the mandatory code or any secondary conditions that have been imposed will face a range of possible sanctions including losing their licence, having additional tough conditions imposed on their licence or, on summary conviction a maximum £20,000 fine and/or six months imprisonment.
Home Secretary Alan 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.

“We have consulted extensively with the public and the alcohol industry to ensure that these conditions will only target the most irresponsible practices that most people agree should not happen anywhere.”

The code will be introduced in two stages. The first three conditions covering irresponsible promotions, the “dentist’s chair” and ensuring free tap water is available will come into effect on 6 April 2010.

The remaining conditions on age verification policies and ensuring smaller measures are available will come into effect in 1 October 2010 to give retailers time to prepare.

In addition to the mandatory code tough new powers for local councillors will come into effect on 29 January 2010. These will make it quicker and easier for them to tackle problem premises by calling for a review to restrict or remove their licence without having to wait for the police or local residents to complain.

Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham said:

“Public concern about alcohol misuse is growing – it affects people’s health and costs the NHS over £2.5 billion every year.

“Reducing alcohol related hospital admissions and helping those who regularly drink too much or are dependent on alcohol are focus of our work.

“The steps being announced today will ban the worst types of irresponsible price promotions and ensure people can choose to drink small measures of alcohol to help them drink less on a night out."
The Identity and Passport Service is currently drawing up plans to issue identity cards to young people living in Greater London. The cards are already providing a secure and convenient way for young people to prove their age when buying age-restricted goods and are an additional tool to help retailers fulfil their obligations under the code.

So far more than 2,500 cards have been issued to people living and working in Manchester and the North West with more than 16,000 requests for application packs.

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NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The proposed conditions of the code will now go before Parliament for approval. The power to introduce a mandatory code of conduct for alcohol retailers was granted through the Policing and Crime Act which received Royal Assent in November 2009.

2. The consultation on the mandatory code ran for 13 weeks and was aimed at the public businesses, industry groups and interested organisations. It included a series of regional workshops and focus groups.

3. The government announced its intention to create a mandatory code in December 2008, to target irresponsible promotions in pubs, clubs and off-licenses that could lead to alcohol-related crime and disorder. This followed a survey in January 2008 which found a disturbing level of irresponsible and harmful practice along with limited evidence that current social responsibility standards are consistently applied or effective in promoting good practice. In July 2008 the Government undertook a public consultation on a mandatory code. Over 90 per cent of approximately 2,000 respondents supported a mandatory code.

4. Problems associated with excessive alcohol consumption include:

* £8 billion to £13 billion cost of alcohol-related crime and disorder per year, according to Government research;

* nearly half of all violent crime occurs between Friday evening and Monday morning according to the British Crime Survey (BCS);

* a fifth of all violent crime occurs in and around licensed premises according to the 2006/2007 BCS;

* between 2001 and 2008 the BCS has shown violent crime falling but the proportion of alcohol-related violent crime remains static; and

* 87,000 violent incidents involving glasses or bottles, according to the BCS 2007/08.

5. For more information about the National Identity Service for individuals, can be found at http://www.direct.gov.uk/idsmart, and for businesses at www.businesslink.gov.uk/idsmart.

6. For more information contact the Home Office Press Office.

Contacts

NDS Enquiries
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department
ndsenquiries@coi.gsi.gov.uk