Both Labour and the Conservatives have been much exercised by the alleged culture of binge drinking in the UK. A report has suggested that the introduction of more relaxed opening hours for the sale of alcohol had not created a cafe culture, but had in fact increased crime. We are told that the UK is at the centre of an epidemic of binge drinking. Children are said to be out of their brains and out of control. David Cameron has suggested that adults who buy alcohol should be named and shamed with pictures. Frankly, after accusing the government of gimmicks, he might have left that idea in the wastepaper bin, where it belongs.
Although the media are whipping up a moral panic, and although it is undoubtedly the case that excessive consumption of booze generally leads to higher crime, the fact is that the UK is not actually at the top of international consumption of alcohol. France, Ireland, Denmark, the Czech Republic and even Luxembourg all consume far more alcohol per capita than the UK does.
What are we then to make of demands that the state should intervene in the market place and ban the sale of strong lagers ? What are we to make of criminal procedures being launched against parents who allow their children to drink ?
Frankly the law already has sanctions against drunkenness- to be drunk and disorderly is an offense. To commit crimes, whether drunk or sober is still well, criminal.
After the absurd number of new criminal justice acts passed over the past fifteen years, it seems plain that Political intervention to control peoples behaviour is highly unlikely to work. Restricting the freedom to drink is not the same as controlling crime. Moral panic leads to the foolish gimmicks that David Cameron proposes.
Instead of changing the law, it strikes me that allowing the Police and the Magistrates the freedom to control late night drinking as they see fit and insisting that public drunkenness not be tolerated should be enough. We already have the laws to control this problem. We do not need more laws.