Street drinking review under way

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association has commissioned a project that will examine street drinking to gain a clearer picture of the problem and review whether the industry should assist in providing solutions.

The WSTA approached alcohol treatment charity Addaction to run research for four months in Barnsley then offer feedback on the scale of the issue and consider how the industry should respond.

Chief executive Miles Beale said part of the work centred on understanding how retailers could step in to help individuals who are abusing alcohol.

Early feedback has been “surprising”, showing that the town had between 15 and 20 street drinkers.

Beale said: “We want to know what retailers could do to support these street drinkers going into treatment or getting help. Street drinkers have a small circle of people they interact with and retailers are one of those.

“I’m not expecting retailers to become glorified medics, but there could be benefits to shops helping and working to improve their local community.

“Retailers could benefit, too, because staff might be being

abused or they could be losing stock due to breakages or theft.”

He stressed that the final research would be reviewed to decide whether industry should launch a pilot scheme – which could be rolled out nationally if successful – and suggested measures to tackle street drinking might also be added to its Community Action Partnerships.

Beale added: “We are being very clear that we don’t know if a pilot scheme will happen at this stage. There would have to be a very solid proposal in place to support launching a pilot and to justify the costs.

“We would also have to prove it could be robustly evaluated so there was evidence to demonstrate it was working.

“Essentially it would have to be a retailer-driven idea. The research was commissioned with a view to producing recommendations which will then be considered by those on the CAP board to decide whether they think a pilot is needed and what it would look like.”

Members of the House of Lords are being urged to back an amendment to the 2003 Licensing Act to make assaulting drinks retailers a specific criminal offence. The change could mean a two-year jail term or an unlimited fine for those found guilty.

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