DRUNKEN teenagers face being breathalysed on street corners in the most radical police clampdown yet on Britain’s binge-drinking yob culture, says the Daily Express. This scheme is being piloted in Colwyn Bay, North Wales and, if successful, will be rolled out nationwide.
If they fail the breath test they will be hauled off home by officers and their parents will be quizzed. Parents who, in all probability, couldn’t give a shit. Perhaps, in the case of under-16s, parents should be fined?
That’s all very well, of course, but it does rather pre-suppose the presence of sufficient police officers on the streets to make it work, and in sufficient numbers to allow for them to be tied up for hours taking the under-age lushes home. Of course, there simply aren’t enough officers available – I can’t remember when I last saw a traffic patrol, never mind a foot patrol.
This problem, and extreme, mindless violence that goes along with it, is never going to go away, though, until we have a system, as in America, where you can’t buy booze without proof of age. The simplest way to achieve that is to issue photo ID cards, along the lines of the driving licence, with the photo embedded in the plastic (but with better, and colour, photos!), to everyone over 13. Photo-IDs which include a laminated photo are useless, as they can be too easily forged.
The kids may well sulk, and refuse to carry the cards, which is absolutely fine as it’ll stop the buggers buying booze just as effectively.
Of course, the sellers of lunatic soup to kids also need the imposition of stringent – and rigorously applied – penalties. A heavy fine for the first offence, and the loss of their licence, for life, for a second offence. Conceivably, anyone found selling booze to sub-teens could be done for child abuse.
Here’s a thought, though. Although booze from off-licences and supermarkets can be cheap, it’s still expensive for someone who isn’t earning, so where do kids get the money to get as apocalyptically blitzed as they do? OK, a group of them could pool their resources for a couple of litres of cheap cider but, per head, that would give only a relatively small amount of booze. Being so young, their tolerance for alcohol is bound to be low, of course, but they seem to have no tolerance at all – it’s as if the very thought of illicit booze is enough to tip them over the edge.
Jacking up all taxes on booze, as this inept government has just done, does nothing to solve the problem, and simply penalises every legitimate drinker. Targeted taxation wouldn’t work either. The favourite target of ill-informed MPs seems to be alcopops – hideous crap like WKD and Bacardi Breezers, but these things are pretty harmless as quantities are small and at 5% alcohol, you don’t get a lot of bang for your buck – for the price of 2 of these, you can probably get 2 litres of 5 or 6% cider at an off-licence, which is far more damaging.
Raising the drinking age isn’t the answer either (unless it’s to 45!), but enforcing the law would provide a solution. It’s an offence, for a start, for off-licences to serve anyone who is under age, so if they just stopped serving anyone who clearly isn’t an adult, they’d cover themselves.
It’s not just plastered teenagers who are a problem – the 20-30 age group seem to have a serious problem with booze, too. It’s an offence bar staff to serve anyone who is drunk, yet in most pubs and bars frequented by this group, the aim is to get the customers as shit-faced as possible as quickly as possible, and to keep them that way until they’re tossed out in the early hours. That has got to stop. It’s already against the law, as I said, but the law just isn’t enforced. A couple of dozen prosecutions, spread across the country, would have a salutary effect on this deeply cynical trade, the more so if licences are lost as a result.
It’s also high time, in my view, to enforce the laws covering being drunk in a public place – they already exist, and if you wander erratically home from the pub (you don’t even have to cause trouble, or puke on your boots, you just have to be a bit unsteady), you can be done. You won’t be, though, because this is another booze-related law that’s almost never enforced.
It has been suggested, in all seriousness (by that limitless source of stupid ideas, Jeremy Vine), that under-age teens should be allowed into pubs to drink, and that adult drinkers could keep a kindly eye on them (paedophiles would just love the supply of pissed youngsters). Of course, it ignores the fact that what a great many of us like about pubs is that they are kid-free zones – we sure as hell aren’t going to be looking after other people’s kids. We should be able to treat this idea with the contempt it deserves – sadly, it’s the sort of idiotic idea likely to find favour with the government, as it passes the buck to someone else, and will cost nothing to implement.
So, answers to this problem do exist, and, though it can never be totally eliminated, it can be radically reduced if there’s the political will to make the police enforce the law. And, of course, to provide enough officers to enable them do so – Community Support Officers may have a role to play here, but cut-price coppering isn’t a long-term solution – we need far more fully-trained police officers on the streets, and more money, preferably government money, as Council Taxes are already excessive, to fund them.