Misuse of alcohol was directly involved in almost 70,000 crimes last year. The startling statistic highlights the destructive impact alcohol continues to have on society.

Official Central Statistics Office figures show there are around 5,000 more alcohol-related crimes committed annually than there were six years ago.

This is due to a sharp increase in disorderly conduct – public order and drunkenness offences – and assaults.

Statistics analysed by the Irish Examiner show there are in the region of 130 cases of drink-related disorderly conduct and 40 assaults, on average, every day.

Official estimates state that alcohol plays a role in at least half of assaults, with some studies putting it as high as 85%.

The number of disorderly conduct cases have jumped by nearly a quarter since 2004, while the number of assaults have risen by a fifth.

Figures from the CSO show there were:

– 47,136 cases of disorderly conduct in 2010, compared with 38,233 in 2004 (up 23%).

– 14,649 assaults, compared to 12,255 (up 20%).

– 10,745 drink-driving cases, against 12,168 in 2004 (down 12%).

– 2,813 liquor licensing offences – covering the sale, supply, purchase and consumption of alcohol – compared with 6,687 (down 58%).

In addition to these 68,000-odd crimes, the drug is also estimated by authorities to be a factor in half of homicides, half of adult sex abuse cases and one third of domestic violence cases.

The high level of alcohol-related crime comes despite the drinks industry investing in initiatives to encourage people to consume alcohol responsibly and to drink in moderation, through advertising and the establishment of MEAS and

A spokesperson for the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland said: “The commitment by the drinks industry to the objective of reducing the level of alcohol misuse is reflected in the industry’s promotion of, and compliance with, co-regulatory codes governing all forms of advertising, promotion and sponsorship by alcohol companies.”

Commenting on the crime figures, Fiona Ryan of Alcohol Action Ireland said: “While shocking, these figures are unfortunately not surprising. The crimes directly involving alcohol almost topped 70,000 last year and that is before we start counting the crimes where alcohol was a contributory factor. Behind every number is a person – a man, a woman and unfortunately sometimes a child.”

While nationally they have dropped, eight of the 28 Garda divisions continued to record a rise in disorderly conduct and nine divisions show an increase in assaults.

The figures for disorderly conduct and assaults only represent recorded figures. Previous research by the National Crime Council estimated that around half of public order offences are dealt with informally by gardaí, and are not recorded.

The CSO Crime and Victimisation Survey of October 2010 found that only half of assault victims reported the crime to gardaí.

Ms Ryan said: “We need to get real with our over-consumption of alcohol. Reducing the widespread availability of cheap alcohol will reduce our levels of alcohol-related harm, including our levels of alcohol-fuelled crime.

“Unfortunately, successive governments appear to be determined not to initiate the one measure that could have a real impact on alcohol-related harm: pricing.”

Source: The Irish Examiner, 06.05.11
Journalist: Cormac O’Keefe