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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 August 2007, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
Police chief urges alcohol action
youth drinking
Peter Fahy said the price of alcohol should be raised
A chief constable has called for a ban on drinking in public areas outdoors to help combat underage alcohol abuse and anti-social behaviour.

Peter Fahy, of Cheshire police, spoke after three boys appeared in court charged with the murder of a man on a street in Warrington.

Mr Fahy also said the legal drinking age should be raised from 18 to 21.

"Alcohol is too cheap and too readily available and is too strong. Young people cannot handle it," he said.

'Social responsibility'

The chief constable said he wanted to reverse the situation whereby public drinking was legal unless councils voted to ban it in specific areas.

How about arresting drunks, fining them heavily and making them pay for any A&E treatment?
Anna, UK

He said: "I would like to see the emphasis change the other way, where we say drinking in public is not permitted apart from those areas where a local community, local authorities say 'yes, in this particular park, this particular location, people can drink'.

"It's that sort of thing which starts changing the popular culture, which starts getting the message across."

Mr Fahy condemned parents for "turning a blind eye" to their children's underage drinking and anti-social behaviour saying "a hardcore" of parents "abdicated" their responsibility.

The chief constable said alcohol was fuelling a wave of violence and disorder across the country and that treating the issue of anti-social behaviour by teenagers as a problem for police to solve alone "was naive" .

"We are doing everything we can, within our resources and powers, but it is not enough," he said.

Britain should act "as a nation" to beat the "scourge of anti-social behaviour by young people", he added.

Chief Constable Peter Fahy
The chief constable said the price of alcohol should be raised

He called for those who sell alcohol to young people, "those who promote alcohol as glamorous" and "teenagers who ignore the rights of others to live without intimidation or abuse" needed to "rack their conscience" and consider their duty.

The problem was not with extended pub licensing hours, he said, but with shops and supermarkets which sold alcohol to underage youths who then congregated outdoors in groups.

He wants police to be given powers to order groups of rowdy young people home and to see an increase in the price of alcohol.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme raising the age limit to 21 would send "a clear message about the dangers" of drinking.

But Home Office minister Meg Hillier dismissed the idea of raising the drinking age.

She said: "People are getting hold of alcohol under 18. If we raise the age to 21 it's not going to stop people managing to get hold of alcohol.

"We have this attitude that it's OK to go out and get plastered, publicly and privately.

"It's not something that government or legislation or the police alone can solve; it's much more of an attitude in society.

One unit is considered to be 8g of alcohol
One small glass of wine, half a pint of beer or one pub measure of spirits usually contains one unit
Some stronger beers and lagers may contain as many as 2.5 units per half pint
Cans of beer/lager often contain about three-quarters of a pint and so will contain 1.5 units
British recommended maximum limits are two to three units of alcohol a day for women and three to four units for men

"In the end, the buck will stop with parents," she said.

The Portman Group, set up by drinks manufacturers to promote responsible drinking, says raising the legal age could lead to more unsupervised drinking by young people and an increased risk of accidents and anti-social behaviour.

Chief executive David Poley said: "If 18-year-olds are allowed to smoke, vote and go to war, they should also be trusted to drink.

"We can curb alcohol-related problems through more effective education, greater parental responsibility and tougher enforcement of the law on underage sales."

Mr Fahy spoke after the death of father-of-three Garry Newlove, 47, who died after approaching a group of youths in Warrington, Cheshire.

Four teenagers have been charged with Mr Newlove's murder. Two teenagers remain in police custody for questioning.

Parenting group say the comments are unfair

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