Late night drinking and violence in Weymouth

Councillor Drake’s rant in last month’s Echo that the assaults that took place in Weymouth was down to ‘late night drinking’ is wrong. Being violent to women is a choice, sober or drunk. It is not down to late night licensing in Weymouth.

Possibly after a couple of drinks to relax his tongue himself, Drake said to the Echo that “the incident might be another example of trouble linked to “late night drinking”.” 

When I arrived in Weymouth for the first time in 2010, I met a disabled and homeless mother and son who had escaped domestic violence in Scotland. They were members of a small sect of the Methodist Church, a tight religious community that still believed in abstinence from all mind altering substances. Her husband used prostitutes while she was pregnant and after she had a stroke giving birth to their child (who is hermaphrodite as well as cerebral palsy), beat his wife and child for 18 years before she finally made a run for it.

Sobriety doesn’t stop violence. Violence to others is a choice that few of us make, and alcohol intake shouldn’t be an excuse.

The internet has been alight with the Stamford University rape case. A Varsity swimming team scholar raped a woman who was unconscious due to drink and managed to get off with an extremely light prison sentence because the judge it seems, didn’t want to traumatise the poor fellow with too much time in prison.

One reading of this is that the judge had possibly been in some drunken scrapes of his own in his time, and felt sorry for the poor little rich boy. The fact is, he chose to rape a woman – there should be nothing beyond that. It was his choice to perform the act, and he should be punished for it.

Late night drinking?

This year I celebrated my 11th anniversary of sobriety. I had been extremely drunk for several years. Day and night I was off my head, and I sobered up only a few months after the Blair government allowed pubs to open 24 hours a day, 6 days a week. Almost anywhere in the country I could source a drink at any time of day or night. I only went to pubs on special occasions as booze was double or more the price I could get from the off license. Late night drinking was a matter of fact for me long before the new laws.

I’m a child of the 1980’s and remember when pubs were only allowed to open for a few hours at lunchtime, a law that stemmed from the 1940’s to keep factory workers sober during the day. Councillor Drake was probably due for retirement even in those days, and I have no doubt he remembers the media furore around pubs being allowed to open from 11 in the morning until 11 at night! Sure enough, for a few months there were people falling off their bar stools at 3pm after a hard session. At 2 pints an hour you can get pretty drunk in four hours! For better or worse, Weymouth was one of many holiday towns that benefitted from the new laws, with people allowed to have a few drinks at any time of day.

For better or worse, with a few beers in them people spend a little more money on other things – the retail sector benefits from people who have had one or two at lunchtime. Drink does disinhibit you, and with a couple at lunchtime a normal drinker might buy more tourist tat from St Marys Street.

Now imagine this…

What if the Echo in its anti drinking vigour stopped drinking in pubs altogether? The pubs would obviously close, but so would the hotels and many of the tourist tat shops. Those that did visit would be sat on the beach with brown paper bags covering their Special Brew and laughing and arguing together. The arguments would occasionally escalate and you would have violence. Because there are no pubs you would have no security staff to tell people to calm down, and no real control over the situation. Chucking out time? That would have effectively happened the year the pubs were closed. People would have their slabs of beer and drink anyway.

On the 15th June a young man was sent to prison for punching his partner and nine month old daughter in the face while on holiday in Dymchurch, Kent after his partner told him he couldn’t go to the amusement arcade and that she wanted him to spend time with them in their caravan. When he attacked his defenceless daughter he had had a bottle of Jack Daniels. He hadn’t even been to the pub yet.

What? Uncontrolled late night drinking on the seafront? Trollied alcoholics beating each other? Sadly until there is a national policy of taxation and real control over Britain’s drinking problem, all you’re going to do is attack the faltering economy of an already faltering tourist town that has been the subject of inept political leadership for years.

National drinking problem…

 The media has recently regaled us of drunken British thugs rioting in France. Britain has an alcohol problem. We can’t hold our drink and we often act out. From my own standpoint I’m a fan of punitive taxation on alcohol to price the hardest drinkers off booze. The Nordic alcohol policy worked in stopping alcohol related violence and health problems for many years across five countries and something like 50 million people. The government won’t do it as they get too many perks from listening to the alcohol lobby – free alcohol amongst other things, something that Chancellor George Osborne seems to enjoy rather a lot!

If there was to be a crackdown on alcohol then it would be necessary to do it nationally. Off licenses, supermarkets as well as pubs would have to bite the bullet and tow a national line. You’re never going to succeed in one town or another individually as people will just source alcohol from the next town. 

If you ban late night drinking in Weymouth the problem drinkers will just use off licenses and will continue to be off their heads and violent. You will have less control over where it happens, and police will spend less time in the town centre dealing with it and more dealing with it at the residences of those with alcohol problems.

In short? If you’re going to go on a bender about all night drinking, then let’s go for broke and crack down nationally – I’ll join the fray! Otherwise, the odd drunk being violent is inevitable. Until there is a national policy on all alcohol in place, there will always be 24 hour drinking. There will always be violence. You will just have less control over it. 

Rich Shrubb