leading change: a society free from alcohol harm

Alcohol and offending behaviour

The link between alcohol dependency and offending has been well established.[1] 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.’[2]

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.[3] The most recent estimated cost of alcohol-related crime to Irish society was calculated in 2013 at €686m. This figure accounts for all estimated crime-related costs from the courts, to prisons and Gardai, to, for example, costs incurred by victims of crime and property lost through burglary and criminal damage. [4] This cost accounts for policing, the courts and the prison service, and does not account for other costs, for example, those incurred by victims of crime in the form of trauma, injury and even death. Other costs include the cost of property lost through burglary and the cost of criminal damage.[5]

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.

Crime incident data from An Garda Síochána shows that from Q1 2018 to 2019, public order offences rose from 31,108 to 32,571, an increase of almost 5%.[6] Stats for the same period show that sexual offences were up 10% year on year and assault, harassment and threat to murder offences were up almost 7%. It is not known in how many of these incidents alcohol was a factor.

An Alcohol Action Ireland survey from 2004 asked about alcohol-related harm in communities and its effects on people and property. Where’s The Harm? found that in the previous 12 months, because of someone’s drinking:

  • 45% said they had gone out of their way to avoid drunk people or places where drinkers are known to hang out
  • 21% said they had been kept awake at night or disturbed
  • 18% said they had experienced trouble or noise because of drinkers at a licensed venue
  • 18% said they felt unsafe while waiting for or using public transport
  • 12% said they had been verbally abused because of someone else’s drinking
  • 12% said they had been involved in a serious argument because of someone else’s drinking
  • 8% said they had been threatened because of someone else’s drinking

 

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.[7]

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.[8]

The social factors that can lead to young people offending have been well documented.[9] 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.[10] As well as having a range of care, health and educational needs, 72% of young people were considered to have substance misuse problems. Of the 66 young people who had drug and/or alcohol problems: 38 were identified as having a mental health problem; 23 were in care; 34 exhibited challenging behaviour; and 17 had self-harm concerns.[11]

Research has shown that alcohol misuse has been found to be associated with offending behaviour among young adults.[12] Irish research on this issue found that found that young adults (18–24 years) were responsible for two-fifths of offences related to drunkenness, public order or assault.[13]

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 drug and alcohol misuse.[14]

[1] BMJ, Violent crime among mentally ill people is due more to substance misuse than inherent factors, study shows, https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c4909, Drug use, mental health and problems related to crime and violence: cross-sectional study. See also: Shifting Focus: From Criminal Justice to Social Justice Building Better and Safer Communities, http://www.iprt.ie/files/IPRT_Barnardos_IAYPIC_Shifting_Focus_Position_Paper_EMBARGOED_TO_23_SEPT_2010.pdf

[2] Mental Illness in Irish Prisoners: Psychiatric Morbidity in Sentenced, Remanded and Newly Committed Prisoners (Kennedy et al., 2005).

[3] Byrne, S. (2010) Costs to Society of Problem Alcohol Use in Ireland. Dublin: Health Service Executive. Hope, A. (2008). Alcohol-related harm in Ireland. Dublin: Health Service Executive – Alcohol Implementation Group

[4] Regulatory impact analysis of public health alcohol act, available at: https://assets.gov.ie/19454/b1990c163eaf454f9f674355eaf4d504.pdf

[5] Byrne, S. (2010) Costs to Society of Problem Alcohol Use in Ireland. Dublin: Health Service Executive.

[6] https://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/ep/p-rc/recordedcrimeq12019/

[7] Irish Youth Justice Service (2009) Designing Effective Local Responses to Youth Crime.

[8] Irish Youth Justice Service (2009) Designing Effective Local Responses to Youth Crime.

[9]Irish Probation Journal Volume 6, September 2009,A Baseline Analysis of Garda Youth Diversion Projects; ACJRD, The Children Court: A National Study, https://www.acjrd.ie/files/The_Children_Court_A_National_Study.pdf

See also Oberstown research and statistics for more information: https://www.oberstown.com/campus-stats/

[10] See Key characteristics of young people in detention: A snapshot (Q1, 2018)’. Available at Oberstown.com.

[11] See Key characteristics of young people in detention: A snapshot (Q1, 2018)’. Available at Oberstown.com.

[12] McAra, L and McVie, S (2010) ‘Youth crime and justice: Key messages from the Edinburgh study of youth transitions and crime’, Criminology and Criminal Justice, Vol. 10, pp. 211–230. Mongan, D, Hope, A and Nelson M (2009) Social consequences of harmful use of alcohol use in Ireland – HRB Overview Series, Health Research Board.

[13] Mongan, D, Hope, A and Nelson M (2009) Social consequences of harmful use of alcohol use in Ireland – HRB Overview Series, Health Research Board.

[14] IPRT, Turnaround Youth: the case for a distinct approach.

For more on the relationship between Alcohol and Crime in Ireland, see Alcohol and Crime: Getting The Facts.