Page last updated at 00:05 GMT, Friday, 21 November 2008

Young drinkers offered education

By Rowan Bridge
BBC Five Live

One teenager, Scott, talks about being found passed out on a road

Binge drinkers in Hertfordshire are being offered the chance to reduce their fines in exchange for a stint on an alcohol re-education course.

Police say it has helped contribute to a dramatic fall in alcohol-related disorder.

Pc Steve Muldoon from Hertfordshire Police is trying to calm down a teenager who has been arrested for swearing and being abusive on Stevenage Leisure Park.

But a combination of alcohol and anger means the message is not getting very far.

Says the young man: "For helping you guys out I get nicked. I've got respect for you... please undo these handcuffs, I beg you. Do you think you're funny in the glasses do you? I was helping the community."

The scenes are hardly unique to Stevenage - they are repeated up and down the UK on a Friday and Saturday night.

Pc Muldoon says the vast majority of the problems they deal with are brought on by booze.

Carrot and stick

"Ninety per cent of what we see on a Friday and Saturday night is alcohol-related," he said.

"We see all sorts of things, from people having too much drink sitting on the floor waiting for taxis and being sick, to people fighting and being aggressive."

The force is becoming increasingly frustrated at seeing the same problems again and again.

Young people worse for wear being handed an 80 fine, only to go out and put on a repeat performance the following week.

Now they are trying a carrot and stick approach.

Drinkers are fined 80, but told they can halve this amount if they agree to take part in an alcohol re-education course.

It's one thing to see it out there, but when it's brought home to you through your own actions, suddenly a connection is made
Scott Rose

It aims to make the person realise not only the effect their night out had on them, but also the impact on the people around them and the link between violence and alcohol.

Scott Rose was 17 when police found him unconscious in the street and arrested him.

"When they offered me the course it was like, a 40 fine? That's half what it's meant to be, great," he said.

"I had no intention of thinking it would be beneficial. I just thought it's an easy 40 to save.

"It's a real eye opener. You go on the course and work out the unit intake. When you work out how many you've had after a litre of whisky and a crate of beer, that is a real eye opener."

More than 100 people have taken part in the programme and fewer than 2% of them reoffended.

Police anti-drink campaign
Most offenders on the course are shocked by the amount they drank

The programme starts with a video showing scenes captured from CCTV of violent, alcohol-fuelled attacks.

It is followed by a quiz on how much the participants know about consumption - how many units a man and woman should drink and how long it takes for alcohol to pass through your body.

For many the most sobering moment is when they chalk up how many units of alcohol they managed to drink on the night they were arrested, and how much it cost them.

Most are shocked at how much they actually drank, compared with the government guidelines.

Ian McNichol, chief executive of the charity Druglink, which runs the class, said: "You'll find quite often a number of young people are totally unaware of the fact that it causes harm.

"They associate alcohol with pleasure, a good time and a fun time and if they are not reached with clearer messages in an effective medium, they won't take that on board.

"It's one thing to see it out there, but when it's brought home to you through your own actions, suddenly a connection is made," he added.

Scott says it has had a long-term effect on his behaviour.

"I'm not saying I don't get drunk, but I don't get that drunk that I don't know what I'm doing," he said.

"I can actually say I will never be in that state again by my own accord. I would never wish to be in that state."

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