Alcohol-related crime a major problem

  • Deborah Condon

The true extent of alcohol-related violence and intimidation has been revealed in startling new research.

According to a survey commissioned by the charity, Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI), half of people say they have experienced some type of alcohol-related intimidation, threat or violence during the last 12 months, while almost one in 10 claim that they, or a family member, has actually been assaulted by a drunk person in the last year.

However, in the case of assaults, half of people said that they had not reported the crime to the Gardai.

Just over 1,000 people aged 16 and older were surveyed, with almost half of these admitting that they had gone out of their way to avoid drunk people or places where drinkers were known to hang out.

The survey also revealed that:
-Almost one in five people had felt unsafe while waiting for, or using, public transport because of other people's drinking-related behaviour
-At least one in 10 had been verbally abused by someone under the influence of drink
-At least one in 10 had been in what they classed a ‘serious argument' because of someone else's drinking.

"These findings raise serious questions about the high levels of tolerance we have for living with the consequences of alcohol-related harm both on an individual, community and society level. What is even more alarming is that this is the public face of alcohol-related harm and crime, albeit with worryingly low levels of reporting to Gardai," commented AAI director, Fiona Ryan.

She said that this survey, along with the findings of a recent Health Research Board study, which showed a major jump in the number of people seeking alcohol treatment, shows that Ireland has a ‘real problem'.

"Yet we continue to sell alcohol at pocket money prices, with women able to reach their maximum low-risk weekly drinking limits for €7 and a man for €10. If we're serious about tackling alcohol-related harm, then we need to tackle pricing and availability," Ms Ryan insisted.

She said that the Department of Health is ‘actively considering' minimum pricing - a floor price below which alcohol could not be sold.

"From talking with gardai, community representatives and elected officials, that change could not come quickly enough. As part of this survey, people were asked if they would favour minimum pricing for alcohol and 55% said yes, showing popular support for this measure," she noted.

Meanwhile, Ms Ryan acknowledged that alcohol-related harm does not just happen on the streets, but also often occurs behind closed doors in people's homes.

AAI commissioned this survey to coincide with a major conference - ‘Alcohol - Where's the Harm?' - which is taking place at the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin today (November 15).


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