March 27 2008
Photo: Girls drinking in Seaham, County Durham, 2004 (Klaatu note: I thought there were kids drinking to oblivion all over the place. How come they couldn't get a more recent photo than 2004?)
Children could be breathalysed under radical new plans to tackle underage drinking.
Police officers will also use test strips to check to see if soft drinks have been mixed with alcohol.
Under the new plans, which are to be piloted in North Wales, teenagers could be stopped in the street and tested for alcohol. Teens who are found with alcohol or who fail the test will be taken home to their parents.
In February North Wales police seized 14 litres of cider and 55 cans of lager in a 16-day operation to confiscate alcohol from children. (Klaatu note: 14 litres confiscated in 16 days? That works out to approx a 1 tenth of a teaspoonful per child per year - clearly an alcohol epidemic in North Wales!)
But the Children's Society warned that the new measures wouldn't be enough to tackle the problem.
A spokesperson said: "Labelling teenagers as 'yobs' who need to regularly be stopped and breathalysed will not solve the problem of alcohol misuse among young people. We can only effectively tackle the issue by addressing the wider binge-drinking culture."
And a spokesman for Alcohol Concern added that the plans didn't go far enough.
"A more fundamental approach is needed to tackle the wider issues around the problem," she said. "We need to be wary of gimmicks.
"There are already substantial powers to allow police to seize alcohol from teenagers drinking in public and take them home to parents. There are two issues we need to tackle: educating parents, and sourcing of alcohol. We need to educate parents about the dangers of children drinking in public, and crack down on irresponsible retailers consistently selling alcohol to children."
The Home Office pledged £875,000 towards tackling underage drinking in February 2008. (Klaatu note: There are approx 15 million people under the age of 18 in the UK, so the Government is spending 5 pence per child to tackle this evil scourge on society. Yet another gimmick "priority" announcement.)
A Home Office spokesman said: "The government is committed to tackling crime and disorder associated with binge-drinking. Police and local authorities already have a wide range of tools to tackle alcohol-related disorder following a number of recent initiatives and we will be keeping a watching brief on the results of this pilot."
A spokeswoman for the British Liver Trust hailed it as a positive move, but said more needed to be done: "This is a positive step but it's not enough – it needs to be part of a wider programme of measures to tackle the problem. Raising the price of alcohol would help. It's pocket money prices – children can afford to buy alcohol over a can of cola. Educating children at school is paramount - this needs to be tackled as part of a wide children's health issue."