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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 August 2007, 10:00 GMT 11:00 UK
Parents 'ignoring child drinking'
Peter Fahy
The Cheshire Chief Constable takes a hard line against parents

Parents should be forced to take action to stop their children drinking alcohol underage, a police chief has said.

Chief Constable of Cheshire Peter Fahy spoke after four teenagers were charged with the murder of Garry Newlove, 47.

He said underage drinking was a "child protection issue" and parents must take action to stop it or face "sanctions" from the care system.

Ministers say there are already tough powers in place to compel them, such as parenting contracts and orders.

Mr Fahy is leading the investigation into Mr Newlove's death. The father-of-three died in hospital in Warrington last Sunday after youths allegedly attacked him.

Last week, Mr Fahy called for the legal drinking age to be raised to 21.

'A tragedy'

Mr Fahy said parents must not be allowed to ignore their children's anti-social behaviour.

Society has recently stepped back from laying down too many standards, and telling people how to run their lives, but I think we've seen the consequences of that
Chief Constable Peter Fahy

"There are schemes whereby youth workers and other people offer support to parents who may have a problem with a youngster who's drinking. But we find a lot of parents will not take up that offer," he said.

"If people are not willing to take up that offer, then there is some form of sanction which actually makes them come and take up that offer.

"This should be a child protection issue and this should be dealt with as part of care proceedings."

He said the nation had been "touched" by the death of Mr Newlove, close to his home and seemingly protecting property from vandalism.

But he continued: "It is also a tragedy that we have four young people charged with murder.

"Young people who are drinking are putting themselves in vulnerable positions both in terms of being the victim of crime or committing crime."

Curfews

Mr Fahy added: "On the whole, society has recently stepped back from laying down too many standards, and telling people how to run their lives, and doing things like saying what time should children be home at night. But I think we've seen the consequences of that.

Youth drinking
Mr Fahy wants the legal drinking age to be raised from 18 to 21

"I think a lot of police officers absolutely would be in favour of a time when it's expected that young people are actually at home indoors."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said some parents wanted to help their children, but struggled to do so.

"In these situations parents need to be given support and help, for their sake and that of the wider community.

"For the tiny proportion of parents who choose to turn a blind eye using parenting contracts and where necessary parenting orders which require parents to get help, can help reinforce their responsibilities as well as improving their children's behaviour."

TV presenter and founder of Childline Esther Rantzen told BBC Radio Five Live she had recently visited Italy where teenagers appeared not to view alcohol as vital to enjoying themselves.

"They were going out to eat ice cream. There were families together.

"No-one was getting drunk. No-one was being sick into a gutter. It was a completely different culture."

Community 'rocked'

Trevor Averre-Beeson, a headmaster who has turned around failing schools, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he had never met a parent who "doesn't have high aspirations for their youngsters".

HAVE YOUR SAY
Unfortunately, we have a whole generation of parents who don't give a damn about parenting
John Carter, Bristol

"They will do all they can to support them, but often they find that a difficult thing to do, particularly in the middle class education system," Mr Averre-Beeson added.

Meanwhile, friends and neighbours of Mr Newlove held a candlelit vigil on Friday.

Neighbour Leanne Dysart, who organised the event, said his death had "rocked" the community, adding: "Our hearts go out to Garry's family, the loss they must be feeling at this time must be unimaginable."

After lighting candles, those gathered held a minute's silence followed by a round of applause for Mr Newlove.

Inspector Derek Lockie, who is in charge of neighbourhood policing in the area, said local officers also felt "the pain and the sense of loss in the community".

But he added: "The message I'd like to put across is lets not demonise the youngsters in this area - it's been a tragic loss to the community, pain that we'll all feel for months to come."




SEE ALSO
Fourth youth in court over death
15 Aug 07 |  Merseyside




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