Crackdown on under-18 street drinkers

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Indy Politics

The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith today signalled tougher powers for police to confiscate alcohol from under-18s as part of measures to tackle street drinking.

Ms Smith said young people should not be drinking alcohol in the street and she is willing to examine whether police should be given greater powers to tackle the problem.

She said she wanted to look at the confiscation laws to see whether or not they were working properly.

"If young people should not be drinking it, I do not think they should be possessing it on the streets either," she told BBC Breakfast.

"I want to look at whether or not we should tighten up the possession of alcohol for young people in public under the age of 18."

Police officers are currently allowed to seize bottles and cans from under-18s found drinking in town centres and residential areas.

But some police chiefs want the Home Office to tighten the law and remove the need for officers to have a "reasonable suspicion" drinkers will commit a crime.

The Home Secretary's pledge follows a public outcry as a result of the murder of 47-year-old Garry Newlove outside his Warrington home last August after he confronted a gang of drunken teenagers about acts of vandalism.

Adam Swellings, 19, from Crewe, Stephen Sorton, 17, of Warrington, and Jordan Cunliffe, 16, formerly of Warrington, were convicted of his murder at Chester Crown Court last month.

Ms Smith's pledge comes as she was due to reveal new measures to tackle the sight of under-18s drinking alcohol in public.

In her first major speech on the subject, Ms Smith will announce a £750,000 crackdown on the problem by police and community support officers during the half-term holiday later this month.

Officers will target under-age drinking haunts in more than 100 areas where young people often gather.

The Government also plans to extend the use of parenting contracts to help more mothers and fathers keep control of their children.

The orders, which can last for up to a year, are designed to help parents improve their skills so they can prevent problems in their child's behaviour.

Ms Smith will also announce an independent review on how the drinks industry is regulating itself and selling alcohol responsibly.

Ministers want to make sure no momentum is lost in the continuing drive to make sure pubs, bars and clubs do not sell alcohol to under-18s.

They are also putting pressure on drinks companies and supermarkets to stop the most excessive cheap drink promotions.

Asked why the Government did not implement a US-style blanket ban on drinking alcohol in public, Ms Smith said: "We have certainly already put in place public places where there should be no drinking in public, if we know that is associated with trouble.

"One of the things I will be doing today is writing out to all police chiefs and to local authority chief executives to remind them of the powers that are already in place, to help them to use those where they know locally, potentially, there is trouble - for example even from over 18 year olds."

Ms Smith defended the use of parenting contracts to tackle the problem.

She said she wanted to see parenting contracts used in cases where for example a young person was being picked up "night after night" on the streets for drinking.

She said: "Those parents need support to be able to make sure that they are keeping their children under control, but they need to be expected to take that support that is out there."

Speaking on GMTV, Ms Smith said the equivalent of 6,500 pints had been confiscated in the campaign last year on under-age drinking in public.

She added: "Police officers have said to me that they need to be able to take drink off young people and they need to be able to make sure that where that is happening consistently, parents are also brought into the equation and made to take some responsibility."

Ms Smith's speech comes after she admitted last month in an interview with The Sunday Times that she would not feel safe walking the streets of London late at night.