COLUMN: Excess booze costs the UK billions a year

Derbyshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa.
Derbyshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, Hardyal Dhindsa.

The financial cost of alcohol misuse to society is immense. Recent Home Office figures estimate it to be £21bn every year – a staggering £11.4bn of which is alcohol-related crime. Alongside these financial costs and the consumption of vast public resources such as policing and healthcare, irresponsible drinking poses a serious risk of harm not only to those who engage in it but innocent bystanders.

Alcohol increases vulnerability. It increases the chance of ordinary law-abiding people to become perpetrators of crime or indeed victims. It’s as much our duty to protect responsible drinkers as it to stop irresponsible drinkers harming themselves and others.

In Derbyshire, we’re increasing safety for everyone this Christmas and into 2018 through the countywide launch of ‘Intoxicated’. This campaign brings together police, the city and county’s licensing teams, local authorities, the East Midlands Ambulance Service, publicans, door staff, street pastors and Pubwatch members in a bid to reduce harm and vulnerability caused by excessive drink and to relieve pressure on the region’s emergency services.

‘Intoxicated’ has been running successfully in Buxton for some time and we want to replicate these results across Derbyshire. We have a fantastic level of support for the campaign with up to 120 licensed premises signing up to promote our responsible drinking messages and to take personal responsibility for increasing safety in their premises.

According to Home Office data, alcohol is a factor in more than half of violent incidents between strangers while 14 per cent of all violent incidents occur in or around a pub or a club. Developing a safer drinking culture where revellers are encouraged to take control of their behaviour and staff are trained to deal with inebriated customers is critical to protecting the wider public.

We’ll be providing bespoke training to bar staff on responsible sales and the law. We’ll be empowering door supervisors to make robust ‘no entry’ decisions and we’ll be delivering refresher training for police officers on the powers at their disposal to deal with drunk or violent revellers. All of this will be backed up with a high-profile marketing campaign educating people about the dangers and legal implications of excessive drinking.

I’ve been very vocal about the need for police and the licensing industry to work more closely to tackle alcohol misuse. It’s a serious issue and we need the full support of bars, clubs and drink manufacturers to reinforce the safety messages we’re trying to convey. This is something I’m pushing for in my role as alcohol and substance misuse lead on behalf of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

This is not about responding to problems when they occur - it’s about being proactive and preventing violence, sexual crimes and antisocial behaviour before they happen.