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Dealing with Binge Drinking

Comment 29th July 2010

Binge Drinking is a problem but it seems the standard view of let’s make things more expensive is not the right way. Some of the recent suggestions about banning cheap alcohol etc only go to punish the majority of responsible drinkers due to the stupidity of the minority and reducing drinking hours again punishes everyone for the stupidity of the minority. I suggest a stronger stance is taking on those that break the law or should I say commit a minor offence such as drunk and disorderly. To achieve this I think a few minor changes could be made to the current legal system to provide a more suitable and cost effective way to deal with not only this but other minor offenses.

 

  1. Create (if it does not exist) a minor offences court system. This would be a minimal court with a judge or other suitable person who is able to pass law. And several court officials to represent both defence and prosecution aspects.

These would deal with minor offences and would be limited to what punishments they can award. Mainly covering pre-defined fines, community service and curfews by the use of ankle tags. If they feel an offense is more serious, they would refer it to a higher court to deal with.

 

  1. Give the Police more discretional powers to deal with minor offences, as they see fits the circumstances of the situation. There powers would allow them to give out warnings, police cautions and pre-defined fines. Very similar to what they already can do but make sure there is minimal paper work needed to cover this. Or a team within each police station that purely deals with the administration aspect, to allow police officers to be on the street and not stuck at a desk. That said if they feel they are dealing with a minor offence that is a bit more serious or a repeat offender, they could still pass this to the minor offence court for a higher punishment.

So how to deal with binge drinking.

If a person is causing problems due to excessive alcohol, the police have several options to deal with this. They give a warning or a fixed fine (£60 sounds the norm). If a fixed fine the person has 28 days to appeal and that is dealt with in the minor court. All they need is a statement from the person and from the police and they make the decision. If guilty the fine stands and the person also covers court costs at a standard sensible set rate. If found not guilty then it is dismissed and removed from their record.

For repeat offenders, then the police have the option to give a police caution or additional (£60) fines up to a maximum of 3 times. After this it is an automatic referral to minor court and the normal next stage would be Community Service. A good job would be cleaning the streets in their local town early on a weekend morning after the mess created from night outs. They should wear orange overalls that say community service on the back or something like that so people can easily see they are doing community service. The minor court could also award mandatory sessions to look into if the person has some kind of alcohol addiction and if help is needed to overcome that. Again they could get up to 3 lots of community service, starting at something like 10 hours and increasing to 50 then 100. If this person continues to offend then the next stage is curfew. Again 3 times, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months and restrict them so they are not allowed to go out on a night drinking in town. If they break curfew then that is dealt with the same way as any other instance of this. If they still continue to repeat offend then a prison sentence, which is a bit extreme but they will have had plenty of chance to mend their ways before now.

As these would be classed as minor offences if a person mends their ways, then the offences are dismissed and removed from their police record after a certain period of time.

Cautions, fines – dismissed and removed after 3 months of not re-offending

Community Service – dismissed and removed after 6 months of not re-offending

Curfew – dismissed and removed after 1 year of not re-offending

Why does this matter?

Our laws should be flexible and suitable to fit the crimes that are committed and we should not be using methods of increasing costs or adding a tax to an item to try and deal with this. In the situation of binge drinking, increasing the cost of alcohol will not stop those that binge drink and cause problems from still doing it. The problem is the mentality associated with this; we need to change the view so that those that do this will know they will get a sensible and appropriate punishment for committing an offence. The rest of society who do drink responsibly will continue to enjoy flexible opening hours and sensible prices for drinks and also know that those that do commit a drink related offence will be suitably punished.

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