Swanswell calls for better alcohol education as ministers propose four-fold fines increase

10 June 2014

Swanswell’s calling for better alcohol education to stop offences such as ‘being drunk and disorderly’ happening in the first place, as ministers plan a four-fold increase in maximum fines available to magistrates.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to news that the government is set to quadruple the limit for financial penalties for all types of crime to deter people from breaking the law again.

Guidelines set out how magistrates determine the appropriate punishment according to the seriousness of the offence, ranging from level one to the highest category, level five.

It could mean someone selling alcohol to a drunk person or being drunk and disorderly in a public place – a ‘level three’ offence – for example, might have to pay up to £4,000 if found guilty, an increase of £3,000 on the current limit.

Magistrates will also be able impose unlimited fines for more serious offences including careless driving or driving without insurance.

But Swanswell believes there should be more focus on better education and clearer information around alcohol harms to stop drink-related offences from happening in the first place.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘While we’re not condoning any of the offences, simply increasing maximum fine levels will not necessarily have the desired effect the government is looking for.

However, if people had access to better education and clearer information about the harm alcohol can cause, it’s likely they’ll think twice before getting into a situation where they could be breaking the law and finding themselves massively out of pocket.

If people are convicted, they should be given more support to identify and tackle the reasons behind their drinking behaviour, so they don’t reoffend in future.’

The plans are set to be debated in Parliament but could come in to force relatively quickly once approved after the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act was passed in 2012 giving magistrates the power to impose unlimited fines for some offences.

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