Daily Archives: 10/06/2015

New plans for ‘alcohol ASBOs’ and GPs to be told of booze offences

This was covered in the Herald Scotland in April looking at alcohol anti-social behaviour orders (ASBO) and mandatory reporting to GP of alcohol offences.

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DISORDERLY drunks face ‘alcohol Asbos’ banning them from pubs and nightclubs under more liquor laws being proposed in Scotland.

The largest Member’s Bill ever to be introduced in the Scottish Parliament proposes introducing ‘drinking banning orders’ (DBO) lasting up to two years which the police or local authority can apply for, even if no criminal offence has been committed.

DBOs could even be served on youths under the age of 18 if courts believe the drunken conduct of the target puts others at risk.

The Bill, proposed by Labour’s spokesman for public health Dr Richard Simpson, also calls for laws requiring GPs to be notified by the courts when a person over 16 has been convicted of an offence involving alcohol.

But leading lawyers questioned the practicality of the plans and warned the move would throw threw up civil liberties issues.

One senior figure in licensing law said that while shutting off access to alcohol to those disposed to criminal or disorderly behaviour while under the influence of drink was “the Holy Grail of licensing policy” the plans were “virtually unworkable”.

But Dr Simpson said: “The Bill strengthens elements which are vital in order to shift the alcohol culture in Scotland. With Scotland’s alcohol consumption per head amongst highest in the world, we cannot afford to wait any longer on this issue.

“It will be a positive contribution to Scotland’s culture and a reduction in alcohol consumption, when these fair, workable and effective measures are implemented in to law.

“I believe that with the minimum unit pricing, and the legislation still being suspended in the European Court, this Bill is even more important.”

As part of the Bill, Dr Simpson makes another attempt at banning caffeinated alcoholic drinks. Although not mentioned by name, the key target of the bid is clearly Buckfast tonic wine.

Amid renewed moves by NHS advisers to have the legal purchase age of alcohol in pubs, clubs, supermarkets and off-licences to 21, Dr Simpson, a former GP and consultant psychiatrist in addictions, wants the law changed preventing local licensing boards changing it from the current 18.

The SNP abandoned controversial plans to increase the purchase age to 21 in 2010, although licensing boards do have powers at present to impose the condition on individual premises.

The BDO plans would also include “protecting other people’s property from unlawful loss or damage” by drunken people, while “the court may prohibit the subject from entering premises that are licensed to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises and must include whatever prohibitions of that sort it considers necessary”.

As well as an application to the sheriff they can be issued by a criminal court “at the time of convicting an offender for an alcohol-related offence”. Although it would be a civil order, breach of it would become a criminal offence.

Human rights lawyer, advocate Niall McCluskey, questioned elements of the proposals. He said: “Informing a GP is a total departure in law. Why should a GP be made aware of a DBO upon conviction?

“It seems much of this type of legislation, preventing access to alcohol, is a sop to not providing sufficient resources to dealing with the associated problems.

“Also, how do we define disorderly conduct? This also raises the prospect of people committing a crime for breaching a DBO when no law was broken when it was handed out in the first place.”

One leading expert on liquor law added: “Steps to prevent those subject to a DBO from entering pubs and clubs just ignores other sources from which they might obtain alcohol. Cutting off that access, no matter how desirable, is just hopeless.

“What’s more, history tells us that this sort of intervention attempt is likely to be a dead duck.”

A Member’s Bill follows a three-stage scrutiny process, during which it may be amended or rejected outright. If it is passed at the end of the process, it becomes an Act.

If anyone wondered why Scotland are acting so strongly on the issue of alcohol then this line tells you why: Scotland’s alcohol consumption per head amongst highest in the world.

I commend you Scotland for tackling the issue head on and may the body of England follow the wise head of Scotland 😉

Edited to add: Today marks the 80 year soberversary of Alcoholics Anonymous.  As Tommy Rosen so eloquently expresses today:

In the book, Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age, it states; “1935, June 10: Dr. Bob has his last drink. Alcoholics Anonymous founded.” The rest is history.

Today, I am celebrating Dr. Bob’s last drink and the millions of people who have recovered from addiction since that pivotal moment.

The 12 Steps are amazing and they work. I remember that the foundation of my recovery from drug addiction and alcoholism was made possible by the 12 Steps and countless people in the many 12-Step fellowships who lovingly passed on to me what has been lovingly passed on to them.

And you can read a good AA news feature on BBC UK today here