Home   Contact Phil


Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton  


         Phil's Diary July 30, 2009



Inebriety makes a comeback

They once hanged a monkey in Hartlepool for espionage, so perhaps we shouldn’t read too much into the town’s latest legislative eccentricity. But it’s still a worry. For the first time in 10 years somebody’s been banned from buying alcohol under the 1902 Licensing Act and legally labeled a ‘drunkard’ as defined by the 1898 Inebriates Act. If she tries to buy drink she risks a £200 fine while the pub or off license selling it to her could be fined £500.
Leaving aside the practical difficulties of enforcing this, what on earth is it going to achieve? It’s an alarming throwback to a period when the solution to those unfortunates with an intractable alcohol problem – then termed inebriates - was to lock them up in an institution.
It was also a time when the temperance movement was at its height and exerting political pressure to restrict the supply of alcohol in general. Just as the health lobby is doing today.
Meanwhile, a House of Commons committee today reports than only one in 18 people with an alcohol dependency is getting help from the NHS.

The prohibition paradox

Also today, a think tank is recommending a more relaxed approach to the supply of illegal drugs. This is because prohibition doesn’t work and only causes society problems – more crime and a stigmatisation of drugs that means addicts won’t come forward for help.
There has been a growing realisation of this in the drugs field where ‘harm reduction’ is now the dominant strategy. Strangely, alcohol policy is moving in the opposite direction. While the government clings to an alcohol harm reduction strategy, it’s under massive pressure to do something about consumption reduction through restricting availability by, for instance, increasing price. You might call it partial prohibition. The Scottish Government already makes explicit its aim to reduce consumption across the population and is leading the world in plans for minimum pricing.

It’s hard to object – if it’s going to work. But our experience with illegal drugs may have a lesson for us there.

Back to diary archive




Writing... Journalism... Research... Awards Judging... Pub Business Advice... Pub Crawls
Contact Phil