The link between the harmful use of alcohol and offending has been well established. Irish research has found that ‘drugs and alcohol dependence and harmful use were by far the most common problems in prisons, present in between 61% and 79% of prisoners.’
Alcohol is often a feature in crimes such as public order offences, assault and murder, as well as rape and sexual assault, and there has been a large increase in all alcohol related crime since the early 1990s.
The most recent estimated cost of alcohol-related crime to Irish society annually was calculated in 2013 at €686m. This figure accounts for estimated crime-related costs such as the courts, prisons and Gardai, to, for example, costs incurred by victims of crime and property lost through burglary and criminal damage.
In recent years, Gardai have been warning of an increase in alcohol-related offences, which they attribute to a boom in ‘the night-time economy.’
In 2017, Gardai reported that public drunkenness offences in Dublin were 40 per cent higher than in 2016, and that public-order crime had increased 14 per cent.
Similarly in 2019, Deputy Commissioner John Twomey, said that number of crimes against the person, including assaults, tends to increase in the summer months. This is related to the consumption of alcohol, which is rising as the economy recovers, he said.
A 2021 report by the Garda Síochána Inspectorate examining the standard of treatment, safety and wellbeing provided to persons in custody in Garda Síochána stations found that 48% of those in custody had consumed or had a dependency on alcohol, drugs or both.
Young people, alcohol and offending:
Alcohol is a factor in approximately half of all youth offending. Alcohol offences (e.g. underage drinking) are the main offences for which children are referred to the Garda Youth Diversion Programme, accounting for almost a fifth of youth offences.
Furthermore, 85% of Garda Youth Diversion Programmes who took part in a 2009 study named alcohol-related crime as first on the list of offences committed in their area. The offences committed when drinking were mainly public order and criminal damage, and to a lesser degree minor assault and trespass.
The social factors that can lead to young people offending have been well documented.
A study of young people in Oberstown, Ireland’s national facility for young offenders, found that the young people in custody had experienced particularly traumatic childhoods.
Research has shown that alcohol use has been found to be associated with offending behaviour among young adults.
One of the key findings of a comprehensive report on youth crime states that young adults coming out of the criminal justice process must be supported in their efforts to stop offending and become active citizens through provision of services including support with employment and education, stable accommodation and assistance to address problem drug and alcohol use.
Alcohol Action Ireland has made detailed submissions to public consultations on issues around offending see for example:
Submission to the Dept of Justice consultation on domestic, sexual and gender based violence strategy
Submission to the Night-time Economy Taskforce