Durham police chief calls for ban on under-21s buying booze

Durham Constabulary Chief Constable Jon Stoddart.

Durham Constabulary Chief Constable Jon Stoddart.

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A POLICE chief is calling for the age at which booze can be bought from off-licences to be raised to 21.

Durham Constabulary Chief Constable Jon Stodddart said that he would like to see an increase in the age limit from 18 as a way of helping reduce the £310million cost to the North East’s healthcare and justice systems each year.

Half of all violent crime is alcohol-related, while alcohol is linked to 40 per cent of domestic violence cases.

The rate of alcohol-related recorded crime in Sunderland stands at 6.1 per 1,000 of the population, with the regional average standing at 5.7.

The rate of violent crimes related to alcohol is also higher in Sunderland, 4.8 per 1,000 of the population, compared with an average of 4.4 regionally.

Mr Stoddart is supporting Balance’s Enough is Enough campaign which is running this week.

The campaign aims to change attitudes in the North East and challenge the culture of heavy drinking.

Balance would also like to see a reduction in alcohol advertising.

Mr Stoddart said: “If you can restrict the opportunity for young people to drink, it’s absolutely the right thing to do.

“Young people in particular are being put at high risk because of alcohol abuse.”

He said that while 20,632 alcohol-related crimes were reported in the North-East in 2010-11, researchers suggest the true figure should be around 214,000.

Mr Stoddart said that during the same year, officers in the region were called to 4,800 incidents related to drinking in streets.

He said alcohol was 44 per cent more affordable last year than it was in 1980.

Mr Stoddart also said he wanted an increase in the minimum price of alcohol and a restriction in its availability.

He estimated that 70 to 90 per cent of police time in County Durham at weekends is spent dealing with alcohol-related incidents.

Colin Shevils, director of Balance, said: “People are concerned because they can see that alcohol use can often lead to violence.

“This can have a real effect on our children.

“There is now a lot of support for something to be done to change the amount of alcohol advertising around at the minute.”

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Minimum age to buy alcohol in different countries.

16: Barbados, Belgium, Luxembourg, Malta.

18: UK, Australia, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt.

20: Iceland, Japan, Paraguay.

21: Fiji, Pakistan (for non-Muslims, prohibited for Muslims), Sri Lanka, United States.