In the deluge of proposed amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill currently going through the House of Lords, there are four short proposed clauses which would be easy to overlook but which could prove to be the most useful tool for tackling crime we have had in years - not to mention a great leap forward for localism in the UK. I refer to the clauses to allow Boris Johnson to pilot a Compulsory Sobriety scheme for drunken criminals in London.
The link between alcohol abuse and certain crime types is clear. Anecdotally, we all know it. We have all seen our market towns and city centres transformed into violent, ugly places come Friday and Saturday eve, replete with fights and mindless vandalism. We hear it from those on the front line - almost any police officer or A&E doctor will tell you that alcohol abuse is the most significant contributing factor to domestic violence and town centre hooliganism. Ask any judge about their despair at trying to stop the repeat drunk driver. It is a huge drain on the public services, but it is also a series of personal and family miseries on a national scale. Baroness Helen Newlove, who wrote movingly on this subject for ConservativeHome yesterday, knows only too tragically the price she and her family and friends have paid.
The statistics bear out this sense we have of a drinking culture out of control. One in five 999 calls is due to alcohol. The Home Office estimates that 60 percent of domestic violence cases have alcohol as a complicating factor. The British Crime Survey estimates that almost a million crimes a year are fuelled by alcohol.