The introduction of minimum pricing will lead to reduction in alcohol-fuelled crime in Ireland and save lives, according to a leading alcohol policy expert.
Professor Tim Stockwell told the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality that minimum pricing has led to a reduction in crime and deaths due to alcohol in Canada and would have similarly positive results if introduced in Ireland.
Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, and Professor Stockwell, Director at the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia, addressed the Committee on alcohol-related crime and the potential of minimum pricing to reduce it.
The Committee heard that alcohol plays a key role in crime in Ireland and the type and severity of alcohol-related offences are wide-ranging, from public order offences to violent assault and manslaughter, while alcohol-fuelled crime also puts a huge strain on Garda resources and costs the State an estimated €1.2 billion annually.
Professor Stockwell presented his latest research findings on the impact of minimum pricing on crime in 89 local health areas in British Columbia over nine years. “A 10% increase in the average minimum price of alcohol was associated with decreases of 19.5% in alcohol-related traffic offences, 18.5% in property crimes and of 10.4% in violent crimes,” said Professor Stockwell.
Professor Stockwell also outlined some of his previous research findings on minimum pricing for the Committee, including that a 10% increase in the average minimum price for alcohol was associated with a 32% reduction in wholly alcohol attributable deaths in British Columbia.
The Committee also heard that research from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group shows that minimum pricing avoids penalising moderate drinkers, including those on low incomes, and would effectively target heavier drinkers, who typically pay less for their alcohol than moderate drinkers, and buy more.
“Alcohol has become such a common thread linking crimes of every nature, from manslaughter to child neglect, that it seems many of us don’t even recognise it as such any more. Just as we have accepted binge drinking and drunkenness as the norm in Irish society, so too it seems we have accepted the huge burden of alcohol-fuelled crime that comes with it,” said Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland.
“What’s clear is that harmful alcohol use is not simply a matter of individual responsibility. The impact of alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour has a ripple effect, extending even beyond those directly affected by it to impact on the entire community, including our perceptions of safety and security.
“Minimum pricing is one of the key proposals in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill currently being drafted by the Department of Health and it’s clear from Professor Stockwell’s research on its effectiveness in Canada that it will also have positive impact here in Ireland, particularly in relation to criminal offences.”
Ms Costello said it’s important to remember that minimum pricing has the potential to reduce alcohol-related harm across many other areas of Irish society: “If we were to see a reduction in alcohol attributable mortality of 32%, as they did in British Columbia following a 10% increase in the minimum price of alcohol, we would save the life of one Irish person every single day.”
For further information on alcohol and crime in Ireland see: http://bit.ly/1eZWyKL
For further information on minimum pricing see: http://bit.ly/Z5FN9E