Trade 'scapegoated' by police

23 August, 2007

WSTA hits back as top brass blames off-licences for antisocial youngsters

Blaming the off-trade for antisocial behaviour among young people is "simplistic" and authorities and communities should work with the industry to tackle the problem, says the WSTA.

Responding to comments by Cheshire chief constable Peter Fahy, WSTA chief executive Jeremy Beadles said it was wrong to make the drinks industry a scapegoat for the problem.

He said: "It is too simplistic to blame the antisocial behaviour of an irresponsible minority on the pricing and availability of alcohol.

"The alcohol retail sector takes its responsibilities extremely seriously and has significantly reduced opportunities for under-18s to buy alcohol themselves."

In a statement about Cheshire police's battle against antisocial behaviour and alcohol-induced violence, Fahy said alcohol was too cheap, too readily available and too strong and called for prices to rise to stop young people buying it.

He added: "To see the issue of antisocial behaviour by teenagers as a problem for the police to resolve is naive. As a nation I believe we need those who sell the alcohol to young people, those who price strong alcohol so cheaply, those who promote alcohol as glamorous, those parents who turn a blind eye to where their children are, those teenagers who ignore the rights of others to live without intimidation or abuse - we need all these elements of our society to rack their conscience and consider what duty they have to beat the scourge of antisocial behaviour by young people."

He also suggested raising the legal purchase age for alcohol to 21, but the idea was rejected by the industry.

Portman Group chief executive David Poley said: "If 18-year-olds are allowed to smoke, vote and go to war, they should also be trusted to drink. Raising the drinking age could force more young people to drink unsupervised, increasing the risk of accidents and antisocial behaviour."

The Association of Convenience Stores said a change would alienate 18 to 21-year-olds who wanted to drink responsibly.

Bargain Booze's Matthew Hughes responds to Fahy's comments, page 14

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