UK, alcohol costs £11.4 billion a year in crime

In the firing line

Last week the UK Home office released its Modern Crime Prevention Strategy report. Overall, the news was good. According to the Office for National Statistics’ independent Crime Survey, last year there were 6.6 million crimes committed in England and Wales, compared with 19 million in 1995.

The strategy focuses on what the evidence suggests are the six key drivers of crime: opportunity, character, the effectiveness of the Criminal Justice System, profit, drugs and alcohol.

It’s the alcohol aspect that is of concern to TKR, and should be to the wine industry. Alcohol is being targeted, and wine, along with beer and spirits, is in the firing line. The strategy says drugs and alcohol are drivers closely associated with “traditional” crimes. Traditional being theft and violence rather than internet fraud, for example.

Over the past 10 years it’s said that in half of all violent incidents the victim believed the offender(s) to be under the influence of alcohol at the time of the offence. That figure increases in incidents between strangers, in the evening or night, especially at weekends, and in public places. That translates to brawling after binge drinking.

Long-term trends in alcohol consumption have tended to follow those for violent crime: an increase in the second half of the 20th century, before more recent periods of decline.

This is not stopping new powers being considered that will deliver “swift and certain short custodial punishments for breach of community sentences, particularly for drug and alcohol treatment”.

The Home Office estimates alcohol-related crime costs society about £11.4 billion ($21.28 billion) per year. This is based on 2010 prices and 2010-11 crime levels, and calculated using a methodology based on unit costs associated with crime types.

No form of alcohol is mentioned but the fact that authorities are cracking down should be fair warning that taxation and laws dealing with licensing are unlikely to be reduced or softened.

The Morning Advertiser is the UK publicans’ daily newspaper (first published in 1794). On March 24 it featured an article by Pete Brown headed “The alcohol figures that just don’t add up”.

His article is about the authorities’ and health campaigners’ claims about the costs of alcohol to the country. It’s much the same in Australia: alcohol, including wine, is the brew of Satan and will bring the nation to its knees.

Brown bases his article on a release by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS). The IAS argues for increased taxation because alcohol’s estimated cost to society is not covered by taxation income:

  • Taxation income: £9 billion
  • Estimated damage: £21 billion

Brown says the authorities claim victims of alcohol-related crime cost £4.7 billion (calculated in 2003), but the latest figure from the Home Office, as seen above, is £11.4 billion. The whole situation is a farce, with more misinformation than fact.

The IAS is pushing a paper published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, which concludes there are no health benefits from the moderate consumption of alcohol.

The origin of the paper was the Canadian University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC), which analysed 87 long-term studies on alcohol use and mortality to come to the above conclusion.

The paper says:

The bottom line is that we need to be more sceptical of claims that low-volume alcohol consumption is good for you, and take a long, hard look at how studies around alcohol and health are designed.

The authors also suggest that improved methods are required to make unbiased estimates of alcohol’s health impacts, and that although alcohol is recognised by international health authorities as a leading cause of preventable death, illness and injury, the extent of this is underestimated.

This could have major implications for the crafting of alcohol policies and for physician advice about low-risk drinking.

The wine industry needs to separate itself from beer and spirits, and accept it is responsible for some damage in the way of crime and violence, but somehow convince authorities and police that its share is less than other forms of alcohol.

Doing well

Figures released by Impact Databank show New Zealand wines are doing very well in the US, with volume up 14 per cent in 2015 to 58.5 million litres. Australia managed a volume increase of 2 per cent to 168 million litres. Value increased 4 per cent to $443 million.

Leading the pack is the Kim Crawford brand, which, according to Databank now sells almost 1 million cases. Australian brands can weep not only at the success of the Crawford brand but the fact that its wines are in the US$17-US$33 ($22-$44) price bracket.

Other brands doing well:

  • Nobilo: up 12 per cent to 560,000 nine-litre cases
  • Oyster Bay: up 15 per cent to 630,000 nine-litre cases

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