Page last updated at 09:36 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

Buckfast 'in 5,000 crime reports'

Youth drinking Buckfast
Buckfast was mentioned in more than 5,000 crime reports

New evidence linking Buckfast Tonic Wine to crime has been uncovered by a BBC Scotland investigation.

A Freedom of Information request showed the drink was mentioned in 5,638 crime reports in Strathclyde from 2006-2009, equating to three a day on average.

One in 10 of those offences were violent and the bottle was used as a weapon 114 times in that period.

Buckfast's distributors denied that it caused crime and said the drink made up just 0.5% of Scotland's alcohol market.

However, Strathclyde Police said the figures suggested there was an association between the tonic wine and violence.

Supt Bob Hamilton said: "I think it's clear from the figures that there is an association there."

"The figures are fairly clear that Buckfast is mentioned in a number of crime reports and over the period requested, the Buckfast bottle was used 114 times as a weapon."

Buckfast tasting at Harvey Nichols

The evidence from Strathclyde Police appears to back up concerns raised by research conducted in Polmont Young Offenders Institution in 2007.

It found that - of those offenders who had been drinking immediately before their offence - more than 40% had been drinking Buckfast.

The drink is produced by Benedictine monks in a Devon monastery.

The BBC investigation looked at its ingredients and how it may affect the behaviour of consumers.

Neuroscientist Dr Steven Alexander from Nottingham University said each bottle contained 281mg of caffeine - the same amount as eight cans of coke.

Brian Taylor
Brian Taylor
Political editor

The SNP knows Buckfast is a weak point in its minimum pricing initiative.

Buckie, as its west of Scotland fans call it, is "relatively expensive" already, as Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill concedes.

It wouldn't be hit by the new policy. But, say ministers, many other problem drinks would be so affected.

He said consuming large amounts of caffeine would make people feel "very anxious and aggressive".

Concerns have been raised about the effect of the stimulant when mixed with alcohol, with the US Food and Drug Administration is considering banning pre-mixed caffeinated alcohol drinks.

Health warnings about mixing the two are also starting to appear in countries like Canada, France, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden and Australia.

The monks of Buckfast Abbey turned down a request to respond to the issues.

However Jim Wilson, from J Chandler & Co, the distributors of the tonic wine in Scotland, was asked about the possibility of reducing the caffeine levels.

He said: "Why should we? It's been there for over 80 years.

"Why should we go about changing the recipe of something just to satisfy somebody's whim?"

Mr Wilson said the Benedictine monks were not to blame for the effects of Buckfast in the outside world.

Buckfast contains the same amount of caffeine as eight cans of Coke
Buckfast contains the same amount of caffeine as eight cans of Coke

He said: "Why should they accept responsibility? They're not up here pouring any of their Buckfast down somebody's throat. People take it by choice because they like it, because it's a good product."

Speaking on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said that what he called Scotland's "vat of shame" was a wider question than one particular drink.

He said: "There isn't any scientific evidence at the moment that says caffeine has a correlation with violence and crime - really Buckfast, drunk usually in the west of Scotland, is part of a cocktail.

"But people frequently have an espresso after a good night out, a meal with a lot of wine, and they don't suddenly go berserk.

"So Buckfast is a problem, but it's not the only drink and if we ban Buckfast we'd still have a drink problem in Scotland."

Labour justice spokesman Richard Baker stressed tackling Scotland's booze culture was not as simple as the SNP's proposals for minimum alcohol pricing.

The Buckfast Code is on BBC One Scotland at 1930 GMT on Monday 18 January

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