Huge rise in public order offences blamed on drink

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The Independent Online

Britain's growing binge-drinking culture has been blamed for a massive rise in the number of convictions for public disorder.

Britain's growing binge-drinking culture has been blamed for a massive rise in the number of convictions for public disorder.

New figures to be released by the Home Office show that the number of men and women found guilty by the courts of being drunk and disorderly in public has risen by almost 10,000 in a decade.

More than 25,000 men and women in England and Wales were convicted for the offence in 2003, compared with approximately 16,000 in 1993.

So concerned are ministers about alcohol-related violence that they are now understood to have ordered military police to help keep drunken youths under control in 20 towns and cities near army bases.

Excessive drinking is considered to be a major factor in a rise in violent crime. Ministers launched a crackdown on violent crime earlier this month, which included a two-year ban from pubs and clubs for people responsible for drink-related offences. The Government also announced plans to make licensees pay for the cost of cleaning up areas where binge drinking is a problem.

Pubs and clubs will soon be able to stay open later under new licensing arrangements in an attempt by ministers to stagger drinking times and reduce rates of drunken behaviour. However, critics have said this will only make the problem worse.

Alcohol abuse costs the country as much as £20bn a year, a large proportion of which is borne by the NHS. Of particular concern is the rise in the number of women and younger drinkers. Recent figures published by the Government have shown that 20 per cent of men and 8 per cent of women binge drink, consuming more than eight units for a man and six units for a woman, at least once a week.

Campaigners have lobbied for more money to be spent on sensible drinking messages and education about safe drinking levels.

A Mori poll commissioned by the charity Alcohol Concern found that more than three-quarters of people say they are worried about problems related to drinking, butonly 7 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women know that the recommended daily alcohol allowance is three to four units for men and two to three for women.

Additional reporting by Lindsey Newton