Government’s alcohol crime claims fall down


6:26 pm - July 29th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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In a press release issued by the Home Office yesterday, Theresa May said:

The benefits promised by the 24 hour drinking ‘café culture’ have failed to materialise and in its place we have seen an increase in the number of alcohol related incidents and drink-fuelled crime and disorder.

We know that the majority of pubs and bars are well run business but the government believes that the system needs to be rebalanced in favour of the local communities they serve with tougher action taken to crack down on the small number of premises who cause problems.

The government wants to “overhaul” the Licensing Act on this basis, and wants to introduce a series of measures outlined here.

This includes “taking tough action against underage drinking”, “charging a fee for late-night licences” and “increasing licence fees” so councils can cover costs linked to police enforcement.

But does the Home Secretary’s original claim that there has been an “increase in the number of alcohol related incidents” stand up?

The Home Office reluctantly confirmed to FullFact.org that it holds no data covering all alcohol-related crime in England and Wales.

So where does the claim come from? The fact-checking org reports:

When pushed, the Home Office identified their recent report ‘Crime in England and Wales 2009/10’ as the source of Ms May’s claim. Using British Crime Survey data, this report does indeed calculate the number of violent incidents attributed to offenders perceived to have been under the influence of alcohol.

However, contrary to the Home Secretary’s claim, the number of alcohol related incidents recorded in this study has actually fallen since November 2005.

So if the numbers have actually fallen, how does Theresa May’s claim stand up?

The Home Office tells FullFact the quote, “should have referred to the proportion of crimes, rather than the number.”

In other words – it’s just spin.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


So, the proportion of alcohol-related crimes has increased since the licensing law changes?

Oh, that’s FINE then.

Jesus wept.

2. Flowerpower

There is plenty of evidence that the hotspots for violence and disorder are concentrated in areas where there are concentrations of licensed premises. There is also plenty of evidence that an increase in the number of licensed premises leads to an increase in violence and disorder. (see: Crime and Disorder in and around licensed premises, IAS)

Theresa May does not need to re-invent the wheel every time she wants to do something sensible.

3. Sevillista

@martin

So, you agree that the number of
alcohol related incidence has fallen since the
new licensing laws?

How is this consistent with the statement hat there has been an “increase in the number of alcohol related incidents”? Maybe I’m just a bit slow,
so would appreciate your help in understanding this.

Incidentally, it is rather amusing that the Tories are drawing statistics
from the British Crime Survey (all-be-it in a highly flawed way) to support their policies given their election campaign.

Hmm, that’s quite a revealing statistic, if alcohol fuelled violence itself has reduced, and yet is now accounting for a greater proportion of violent crime, then that means that the previous Labour government managed to reduce violent crime across the board.

Ah, just smell that so called tory freedom.

Same old tories.

If a policy runs directly contrary to the evidence, can it still be described as evidence-based, I wonder?

As some of the commenters have noted, the problem here isn’t just that the Home Secretary’s claim is inaccurate, but also the that the very stats she’s referring to in support of her announcement are a fairly poor measure of alcohol-related crime in the first place.

We did a follow-up post to this looking at some of the other ways the success or failure of 24-hour drinking could be judged. We did consider looking at hospital admissions as Flowerpower suggests, but in the end decided to keep the remit simply to crime reporting. It turns out there’s a number of measures we can look at, but none of them are particularly convincing. The post is here if you’re interested: bit.ly/cbcIdX

OK, in the absence of evidence, I’ll accept that there’s no evidence that alcohol fuelled crime has increased.

But there is this:

“The number of alcohol-related deaths in the United Kingdom has consistently increased since the early 1990s, rising from the lowest figure of 4,023 (6.7 per 100,000) in 1992 to the highest of 9,031 (13.6 per 100,000) in 2008. Although figures in recent years suggested that the trend was levelling out, alcohol-related deaths in males increased further in 2008. Female rates have remained stable.”
http://www.statistics.gov.uk/CCI/nugget.asp?ID=1091

And this:

“The survey of 35 countries found the UK had the third-highest number of 15 and 16-year-olds with an alcohol problem.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/5054380/Britains-chronic-teenage-binge-drinking-problem-highlighted-by-European-poll.html

and this government report in 2003:

“Britain’s binge drinking culture is costing the country £20 billion a year, according to a government report. The study by the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit shows 17 million working days are lost to hangovers and drink-related illness each year. ”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3121440.stm

All that said, are the proposed changes in licensing powers for local authorities objectionable?
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/media-centre/press-releases/licensing-act-overhaul

9. Matt Munro

“But does the Home Secretary’s original claim that there has been an “increase in the number of alcohol related incidents” stand up?”

It doesn’t matter – If the number of incidents is the same but they occur over a longer period of time i.e from 11pm to 5 am, rather than 11pm to 12pm that has negative consequences for the police (more hours to cover), taxpayers (more police costs more money) and people who live near pubs – most people will put up with noise up to midnight but 3am every night is something else

More generally I don’t think that outside a few NW postcodes, the “cafe culture” has materialised (surprise surprise).

10. Sevillista

@mattmunro

I see – as it is bad (in your view) for another reason the Home Secretary is completely justified in lying.

11. Matt Munro

@12 Anecdotally it’s obvious that crime has risen dramatically over the past 14 years, I don’t what any home secretary says. The last government mucked around with the figures so much that no one believed them, not even the Police.
And statistics on “violent crime” as a single category hides the fact that gun and knife crime went through the roof through the roof under nu labour.

12. Richard W

It’s a talking point and the magic of talking points is they do not need to be true. All that needs to happen is the person indulging in the talking point either believes it to be true or just wants it to be true and hey presto a talking point becomes a fact. See Iain Dale or ConHome comment section to see how talking points magically transform to facts just through repeating them.

13. Matt Munro

@ 14 I don’t think lefties can seriously accuse anyone else of a misleading use of statistics

14. Richard W

Well Matt I am not a lefty. Of course all sides misuse or abuse stats. However, I tend to notice that it is some on the right who don’t just misuse them but completely misunderstand them leading to some funny situations.

Politicians spinning stats to fit their argument. Well I never.

Shame this site didn’t spend as much time searching out the Labour spin on stats – perhaps it might retain a shred of credibility to criticise the Tories for it too.

I live in Cardiff, which last year gained a sort of notoriety for stories like this and photos like these. A week before the general election, I went to a local hustings, where my MP, Alun Michael (whom I pretty much regard as a New Labour hack, BTW) was among the speakers. Drinking came up, and Alun Michael produced figures which showed (IMO, and I didn’t check properly) that violence had fallen in the past ten years. And this is not implausible. There are crowds of boisterous young people, but the male-female ratio is more equal; the atmosphere is less testosterone-heavy and belligerent.

Young people are disorderly. I’m really not sure that alcohol is a factor. They were in the days of Elvis, West Side Story, and “Meet the Beatles” and in those days teenagers couldn’t drink.

As for that Telegraph piece:

A statement from the university said: “The fact that some teenage girls are binge-drinking even more than boys suggests that in the UK and elsewhere a profound social change has been taking place.
“It is clearly no longer socially unacceptable for females to drink heavily or to become intoxicated.

Women didn’t get drunk until that *feminism* came along. Er, the “Thin Man” films, Elizabeth Taylor, housewives drowning sorrows in gin – they just didn’t exist. Profound social change? As someone said in another context, “Free at last, free at last. Praise god almighty, we’re free at last.” What people do to their own bodies is really no business of the state.

Anecdotally it’s obvious that crime has risen dramatically over the past 14 years, I don’t what any home secretary says

This is why arguing with right-wingers is a complete fucking waste of time. “Because the evidence doesn’t suit my halfwitted opinions, I’m going to ignore it”. That’s your conservative manifesto right there…

Shame this site didn’t spend as much time searching out the Labour spin on stats – perhaps it might retain a shred of credibility to criticise the Tories for it too.

If you actually bothered to read this site then you’d know this was horseshit. But nice try anyway… typical right-wing whataboutery.

19. margin4error

Matt

The single biggest change to crime statistics in recent times was the move to change reported crime that meant if one crime had three victims it counted as three crimes.

That change increased crime stats.

So maybe we (you) should list some of the changes in the stats that account for the massive fall in crime in this country?

Otherwise you come across as blind and ignorant.

“Anecdotally it’s obvious that crime has risen dramatically over the past 14 years,”

Annecdotally its fallen. I was mugged in 1993, and my father’s car was broken into in 1995. Since then neither me or any member of my family has been the victim of a crime.

This is why annecdotal evidence about whether crime has risen or fallen is bollocks and meaningless, and why we use quantitative data Matt.

Good article Sunny- it was always clear that this lot would deal in policy created evidence where it suited them just like the last lot.

Having said that, I have no problem with most of the actual proposals, particularly the charging of the external costs of their businesses to pubs and clubs.

Isn’t the entire debate here rather spurious. Yes, the figures used do not say what Ms May said they said, which is her mistake. Oh dear, she’s falliable.

But equally, it is clear that some places do have problems with violence and other anti-social behaviours due to drinking. And longer licensing hours sometimes contribute to this, as they allow idiots to drink more – we all have met/been the type who just drink continually as long as possible. So these measures to address the problem are reasonably sensible and at least consistent in giving a voice to locals and requiring clubs to bear the costs they incur. No real problem there, unless it is used to crush all late drinking.

Although announcing that they are “introducing a ban the sale of below cost alcohol and consulting on how this can be achieved.” is not only illiberal, but seems to be the wrong way round…

23. margin4error

Watchman

I fear you have missed the point

The issue here is that the Home Secretary is lying or stupid in her justifying an illiberal step that, so far as the evidence suggests anything, would not only stop hard working people being able to buy a midnight pint at their local pub – but would also lead to greater levels of crime.

Actually crime falling since the laws were changed doesn’t prove that the change in law cut crime. But what it absolutely definitely not prove is that crime rose as a result of that change in the law.

Which begs the question – why on earth is she planning to stop my local pub selling me a pint after a late night at work?

After all – I for one am not convinced that shoving every “drink as long as possible” type out onto the streets at exactly the same time all over every town is a recipe for a quiet walk home.

We all have to pay for the higher costs inflicted on the NHS for having to treat the rising tide of sickness and mortality rates caused by alcoholism.

25. Richard W

Well the costs Bob have to be offset with the savings of not paying pensions to those who die premature deaths. Moreover, those who die premature deaths obviously do not reach the very expensive age groups for the state of 80+. In a way those who die prematurely subsidise those who live long life’s. With the development of gene mapping maybe we should have a higher tax rate for those expected to live long life’s.

“Anecdotally it’s obvious that crime has risen dramatically over the past 14 years, ”

Priceless.

FWIW, my observation of underage/binge drinking is caused by the supermarkets selling cheap alcohol, this results with kids in the parks consuming cider and hanging around street corners. Buying cheap alcohol to consume prior to going-out in the evenings so that many are already drunk before entering licensed premises.

28. Rhys Williams

It is strange to hear right wing libertarians fighting for more regulation.
I thought you lot believed that people should drink or smoke when or where they wanted to unless they break the law

I wonder if this government will clamp down on anti-social drinkers like these young men at university? Getting pissed on Champagne and trashing restaurants, etc. I do hope so.

30. Rhys Williams

Also when was this golden era of non drinking obnoxious behaviour when licensing laws were in place.
I remember a lot of people drinking 12 pints in 2 hours on a Sunday lunch.
Also it would be interesting to see if the net amount of alcohol sold by pubs is more or less since 24 hour drinking.
I expect taking into account for increase in population , the figures would be roughly the same.

31. Rhys Williams

Good point phil,
You get the feeling that “Mummy Teressa knows best”, the areas they will target will be in working class areas.
Nanny state eh boys


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. sunny hundal

    Theresa May caught spinning again RT @libcon: Government's claim on alcohol crime blown apart http://bit.ly/dAOIl0

  2. fljf

    RT @sunny_hundal: Theresa May caught spinning again RT @libcon: Government's claim on alcohol crime blown apart http://bit.ly/dAOIl0

  3. Alex Ross

    RT @libcon Government’s claim on alcohol crime blown apart http://bit.ly/9fic1d

  4. alex ross1983

    RT @libcon Government’s claim on alcohol crime blown apart http://bit.ly/9fic1d

  5. Jim Melly

    RT @libcon: Government's claim on alcohol crime blown apart http://bit.ly/dAOIl0

  6. Roger Gall

    RT @libcon: Government's claim on alcohol crime blown apart http://bit.ly/dAOIl0

  7. Liberal Conspiracy

    Theresa May was caught spinning police reform earlier this week. Now it's alcohol related crime http://bit.ly/dAOIl0

  8. Nick Winstone Cooper

    RT @libcon: Theresa May was caught spinning police reform earlier this week. Now it's alcohol related crime http://bit.ly/dAOIl0

  9. James Looker

    RT @sunny_hundal: Theresa May caught spinning again RT @libcon: Government's claim on alcohol crime blown apart http://bit.ly/dAOIl0

  10. Christopher Snowdon

    Liberal Conspiracy are right and the Tories are wrong about the licensing laws: http://bit.ly/9YOILg

  11. fljf

    RT @libcon: Theresa May was caught spinning police reform earlier this week. Now it's alcohol related crime http://bit.ly/dAOIl0

  12. tenpn

    .@bengoldacre Home Office issues proportional crime stats, pretends they're absolute numbers http://bit.ly/9YOILg

  13. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: Government’s alcohol crime claims fall down: In a press release issued by the Home Office yesterday, Ther… http://bit.ly/b49pmy

  14. Elaine S

    RT @libcon: Theresa May was caught spinning police reform earlier this week. Now it's alcohol related crime http://bit.ly/dAOIl0

  15. Queen's Head Inn

    Interesting re license changes – Home Secretary's claim that alcohol-related crime has increased turns out to be false: http://bit.ly/bTW49Y

  16. Cameron backs ban on cheap booze with dodgy statistics | Liberal Conspiracy

    […] fact, with Home secretary Theresa May massaging alcohol-related crime figures to call for an end to “24 hour cafe drinking […]





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