Drunken children will be forced to undergo rehab

Children regularly discovered drunk by police will be ordered into rehabilitation to wean them off alcohol, ministers will announce today.

Binge-drinking youngsters will face compulsory treatment sessions with counsellors who will advise them on the health risks and on how to stop drinking.

The scheme, part of a drive to curb levels of alcohol-fuelled violence and antisocial behaviour, is modelled on successful adult programmes that have helped cut drink-related crime by half.

Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, will draw up advice for parents on drinking by children. He will fix an age – likely to be 12 – below which they should not touch alcohol and will suggest safe limits for teenagers.

Teenagers persistently caught with alcohol will be given Asbos, which will impose curfews and alcohol bans, or will be put on acceptable behaviour contracts. Their parents could be required to attend parenting courses and, if they fail to get a grip on their children, could be prosecuted.

The Youth Alcohol Action Plan will create a new criminal offence for under-18s persistently caught drinking in public. Police will be able to move them on and then arrest them if they are later found drinking nearby.

But a spokesman for Alcohol Concern said: "Young people with drink problems need support and advice, not a criminal record."

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