Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Splashing Out

If you’re planning to buy alcohol in the near future, and prefer not to have your mugshot made available to the police, best to stock up now. Buried deep within the debate around the s.31 of the Policing and Crime Bill are provisions that will allow the Secretary of State to instruct your local corner shop - or pub - to install CCTV and retain pictures of anyone buying alcohol for at least 60 days. Said pics will, of course, be available to the police on request.…!!

We all recognise that Thanet has a significant problem with under-age drinking and I'm wondering whether readers feel that the installation of CCTV cameras might act as a deterrent or indeed aid police and Trading Standards in their prosecutions of either offending traders or teenagers.

The draft has not yet been approved by Ministers, so it is possible that some, all, or none of the measures included in it may be quietly dropped over the next few months. However, measures range from the fussy (laying down the precise percentage of floor area that should be given over to seating), prescriptive (requiring that staff be trained at least every five years in conflict resolution) to the downright intrusive (requiring that areas where alcohol is displayed be covered by CCTV – and all footage be kept for no less than 60 days).

Filming areas where alcohol is sold, as the Home Office suggest, would imply a much harsher approach to the policing of alcohol sales, requiring shop owners first to fund the installation of CCTV, and then make available to the police footage of their own staff breaking the law.

Is this a tacit recognition by Government that the relaxation of the alchol laws has been the disaster that the NHS and the police claim it is and is this introduction of technology, at a cost to the trader, simply evidence of locking the stable door well after the horse has bolted?

CCTV is all well and good but the will and resources to prosecute offenders has to exist as well and the last time I made a Freedom of Information request, last year, Kent Police told me that they had no record of anyone being prosecuted for the secondary sale of alcohol to minors, which appears to be the most common route; i.e. the older teenager buys the Vodka for his younger mates.


Peter Checksfield said...

Personally I'd like to see the mimimum age for buying alcohol increased to 21.

Michael Child said...

I think the problem here has a lot to do with the British character, if one goes back only a few years most drinking was done in the public houses with very restricted licensing hours. For the most part landlords were inclined to stop things getting out of hand, and then along came the very large companies that wanted to have the money spent instead.

Our social drinking framework changed radically and quickly from alcohol mostly being available for restricted periods within a social environment, to the present crazy free for all.

Perhaps we should be looking too much heavier regulation of off sales but allowing the under 18s some sort of controlled access to some strengths of alcohol within the social environment of our public houses.

Peter I can’t see how once we have accepted that a person becomes an adult at 18, we can legislate for anything, to stop them doing anything that any other adult can do.

Frankly once you go down the road of excluding the youth from the social framework in a society with virtually all of the accessible non-alcohol related leisure facilities closed, and everything commercial entirely run on a most profit basis, you end up with the current mess.

West Cliff GB said...

I can see where Peter is coming from though. It works in the US.
As a bit of a libertarian I accept that it's a bit rich allowing an 18year old to fight for Queen and Country but not allowing them to talk about it on their return over a pint in a pub.

The problem is with the retail trade - booze is too freely available and at too low a cost.
Let's get back to bars and off-licences.

The other contributory factor is one that is the cause of so much of societies ills - stupid,feckless 'parents'.

The Labour Government will never admit how foolish it has been in tampering with the licensing laws.
As ever, they don't have to live with the devestating effects.

Michael Child said...

OK West Cliff, where do the Conservatives intend to take us on this one 10.30 and 11 pm at weekends pub and off-licence closures, the stopping alcohol licenses for supermarkets and garages, I am afraid that I expect they will be just as much at the mercy of the lobbyists as labour.

I posted the other day about how the smoking law is effecting pubs here, it’s an example of what I mean, here is a quote from it:

“I have said before that if a big chain bar eatery was to commission a panel of experts to find a way to lobby the government, that would close down the opposition (the traditional English pub) then the no smoking ban is perfect, and totally justifiable.

So being in a traditional English pub at around midnight with snow falling heavily outside, a group of law abiding 30s to 80ish, not a pub much frequented by the youf of today, the landlord eventually looked out, it was hardly deep and crisp and even, but very unpleasant. The types sipping their beer at this time of day, are well of a type, and the landlord looked in, and said, “is their anyone in here who actually doesn’t smoke?” The law abiding broke the law, the discussion meandering around which party one could vote for to get it repealed.

Funny tragic I don’t know, the landlord, local man who had a good business is less concerned about the law in Major, Blair, Brown’s Britain as he is going bankrupt because of this law, no excuse for the rest of them though.”

The fundamental problem here in the UK is that large companies are being allowed by government to destroy our way of life, what we need is government with the strength to stand up to them.

West Cliff GB said...

Hi Michael - I have no idea where the Conservatives are taking us on this one. Personally, I see no problem with restricting where and when booze is sold. Those who want to buy it (legal age and all that of course) will still be able to but it will become a much more reasoned and 'planned' purchase. At the moment, every convenience store and garage seems to be selling strong lager almost as an impulse purchase right by the tills.

The breweries may see a slight dip in sales initially but figures I've seen in the past few days suggest that this recession, unlike previous ones, has seen a decline in beer sales across the board anyway (apparently it's KFC and Cadbury's we're all turning to numb ourselves from the Broon Terror!)

You're right about the lobbyists though. They'll get to Cameron unless he's prepared to attempt a bit of joined up thinking. As for the smoking ban, it has wrecked large parts of the pub game. It would have been better to allow pubs to opt in or out of the ban.
So, my attitude to smoking and alcohol may be somewhat contradictory (control/choice) but hey,that's life.

Anonymous said...

anon again!

In these recessive days, I can only wonder who has enough cash left to chuck away on booze, let alone fags!

If I can't trust a Government to run my Country correctly, and I can't trust my Bank to handle my money safely, what should I do?

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Scotland where until recently the pubs all closed at 9.30p.m. having only re-opened, following the lunchtime trade,at 6p.m. Result, if anyone had any money and most didn't except around payday, very drunk men staggering out after their last 'swallie'. Women were only allowed in the lounge bar and even then were frowned upon as women should have been at home not out with the menfolk.

We have had a total change these days with extended hours and alocohol sold in every corner shop and supermarket. Higher incomes and more money in young people's pockets means drink is easily available in their homes and in virtually every shop in a town centre. Alcohol in real terms is cheap compared to years ago and three bottles of wine for £10 is within the reach of teenagers who pool their money.

Thanet has too many premises that sell to underage drinkers. The owners do occasionally get caught but one corner shop near me is well-known to the local youngsters as a place to buy cheap booze regardless of age. The police have been informed but seem to have failed to catch the seller.

It seems young women who are the ones I see staggering around in Broadstairs during the evening having, I fear, imbibed at home before venturing out.