Minimum alcohol pricing ‘lowers crime’

Minimum alcohol pricing would reduce drink-fuelled crime in Ireland and save a life every day, an addiction expert has claimed.

Tim Stockwell of the University of Victoria in Canada told a meeting of the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence, and Equality that there were significantly fewer alcohol-related crimes and deaths after minimum pricing was brought in in Canada.

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, and Prof Stockwell, director at the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia, addressed the committee on alcohol-related crime and the potential of minimum pricing to reduce it.

The committee heard that alcohol plays a key role in crime in Ireland and the type and severity of alcohol-related offences are wide-ranging, from public order offences to violent assault and manslaughter.

Alcohol-fuelled crime also puts a huge strain on Garda resources and costs the State an estimated €1.2bn annually.

Prof Stockwell presented his latest research findings on the impact of minimum pricing on crime in 89 local health areas in British Columbia over nine years.

“A 10% increase in the average minimum price of alcohol was associated with decreases of 19.5% in alcohol-related traffic offences, 18.5% in property crimes and of 10.4% in violent crimes,” he said.

Previous research by Prof Stockwell has shown that a 10% increase in the average minimum price for alcohol was associated with a 32% reduction in wholly alcohol attributable deaths in British Columbia.

The Sheffield Alcohol Research Group told the committee that minimum pricing would not penalise moderate drinkers and those on low incomes.

The group said the pricing system would effectively target heavier drinkers, who typically paid less for their alcohol than moderate drinkers, and bought more.

Alcohol Action Ireland chief executive Suzanne Costello said minimum pricing was one of the key proposals in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill currently being drafted by the Department of Health.

“It’s clear from Prof Stockwell’s research on its effectiveness in Canada that it will also have positive impact here in Ireland, particularly in relation to criminal offences,” said Ms Costello.

“If we were to see a reduction in alcohol-attributable mortality of 32%, as they did in British Columbia following a 10% increase in the minimum price of alcohol, we would save the life of one Irish person every single day.”

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