Police chief wants alcohol crackdown

LONDON (Reuters) - A senior policeman has called for the legal drinking age to be raised to 21 to tackle the “scourge of anti-social behaviour” that has blighted many areas.

A man pours a drink in a file photo. A senior policeman has called for the legal drinking age to be raised to 21 to tackle the "scourge of anti-social behaviour" that has blighted many areas. REUTERS/File

Cheshire Chief Constable Peter Fahy said society must address the causes behind a rise in under-age drinking, alcohol-fuelled violence and vandalism.

He blamed parents for failing to keep their children under control and said the drinks industry was guilty of selling alcohol too cheaply.

A hardcore of young men are being sucked into crime because they have dropped out of education, training or work, he added.

“Every night of the week Cheshire officers...are engaged in a constant battle against anti-social behaviour and alcohol-induced violence,” he said in a statement. “Alcohol is too cheap and too readily available and is too strong.

“Most of the bad behaviour is fuelled by alcohol -- much of it supplied by adults -- including some parents.

“I know that a hardcore of parents turn a blind eye to the fact that their youngsters are out there, drinking under age and congregating in places where they cause nuisance.”

In an interview with Channel 4 News on Tuesday he said the minimum drinking age should be raised to 21 from 18.

He spoke out after the murder of sales manager Garry Newlove, 47, who died after confronting a group of youths outside his house. Two boys aged 15 and another aged 16 appeared in court on Tuesday charged with murder.

Last month, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s spokesman said the Home Office is to examine the impact of the relaxation of licensing laws in 2005.

The government, which has pledged to crack down on anti-social behaviour, said overall crime has not risen since pubs were allowed to open later, although more offences are taking place in the early hours.

Problem drinking costs the economy an estimated 20 billion pounds each year in crime, health costs and disorder, according to a Home Office report.

Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker said in June he wanted to promote a “sensible drinking culture” to replace the idea of drinking to get drunk.

Fahy said it was naive to think that police can tackle alcohol-fuelled crime alone. He called on parents, industry and teenagers to play their part.

“We need all these elements of our society to rack their conscience and consider what duty they have to beat the scourge of anti-social behaviour by young people,” he said.