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Home > Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality debate. Public order offences from alcohol misuse perspective: discussion.

[Oireachtas] Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality debate. Public order offences from alcohol misuse perspective: discussion. (25 Mar 2014)


Chairman: The purpose of today's meeting is a discussion with representatives from Alcohol Action Ireland and Professor Tim Stockwell in relation to a possible solutions-based approach to public order offences from an alcohol misuse perspective.


 On behalf of the committee, I welcome Ms Suzanne Costello and Professor Joe Barry, Alcohol Action Ireland who are accompanied by Professor Tim Stockwell from the Centre for Addiction Research, British Colombia University of Victoria. In terms of format, we will commence with opening statements of approximately five minutes following which there will be a questions and answers session with members. I understand Ms Costello will be making the initial contribution and that we will then hear from Professor Stockwell.


Ms Suzanne Costello: On behalf of Alcohol Action Ireland, I thank the committee for the opportunity to meet with it today. We are at a critical juncture in terms of alcohol policy in Ireland. The public health (alcohol) Bill, which is currently being drafted, presents us with an opportunity to begin to address the huge burden of alcohol-related harm in our society, with crime chief among them. The harm experienced by the individual owing to his or her drinking is only part of the story of alcohol-related problems in Ireland. The debate on the impact of alcohol-related harm and the policy measures needed to address this harm needs to fully encompass the far-reaching negative effects of the drinking behaviours of people on their families and communities.


 Alcohol plays a key role in crime and the type and severity of alcohol-related offences are wide-ranging, from inconvenience and disturbance to violent assault and manslaughter. This is in addition to those offences that are obviously alcohol-related, such as driving under the influence of alcohol. The role that alcohol plays in crime in Ireland is probably most evident to the public in terms of anti-social behaviour and public order offences, particularly at weekends, but its roots spread far wider and deeper than just the highly visible and audible late night incidents on streets throughout Ireland. It is also a key driver of domestic abuse, rape, sexual assaults and problems relating to child welfare. Alcohol has become such a common thread linking reports on crimes of every nature, from manslaughter to child neglect, that it seems many of us do not 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. It is clear 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 beyond those directly affected to impact on the entire community, including our perceptions of safety and security.

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