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Publication - Consultation Responses

Consultation on Police Powers to Search Children and Young People for Alcohol: Analysis of Responses

Published: 4 Nov 2016
Part of:
Children and families, Law and order
ISBN:
9781786525698

Analysis of consultation responses received.

38 page PDF

769.9kB

38 page PDF

769.9kB

Contents
Consultation on Police Powers to Search Children and Young People for Alcohol: Analysis of Responses
5 Views on a new police power to search those suspected of supplying a child with alcohol (Q3)

38 page PDF

769.9kB

5 Views on a new police power to search those suspected of supplying a child with alcohol (Q3)

5.1 The police currently have powers to require an individual to surrender alcohol if they are suspected of supplying or intending to supply it to a person under the age of 18 for consumption in a public place. Refusal to cooperate with such a request is an arrestable offence. The consultation sought views on the option of introducing anew statutory power to stop and search individuals suspected of supplying alcohol to those under 18 years of age in such circumstances:

Question 3: Do you think that a new power for the police to search a person suspected of supplying a child with alcohol as outlined in Part 1 of this consultation paper is an appropriate method to reduce risk to safety and wellbeing caused by possessing and consuming alcohol in public? (Yes / No)

5.2 The chapter presents analysis of responses to Question 3 and an analysis of comments related to this question.

5.3 A total of 113 respondents (86 individuals and 27 organisations) answered Question 3. Table 5.1 shows that a majority of respondents (59%; 67 out of 113 respondents) answered 'Yes' indicating that they thought the power would be an appropriate method of reducing risk to safety and wellbeing caused by possessing and consuming alcohol in public. Individuals were somewhat more likely than organisations to agree (62% compared to 52%).

Table 5.1: Q3 - Do you think that a new power for the police to search a person suspected of supplying a child with alcohol as outlined in Part 1 of this consultation paper is an appropriate method to reduce risk to safety and wellbeing caused by possessing and consuming alcohol in public?

Respondent type

Yes

No

Don't Know

Total

n

%

n

%

n

%

n

%

Individuals

53

62%

23

27%

10

12%

86

100%

Third sector organisations

4

40%

6

60%

0

0%

10

100%

Local authorities / partnership bodies

4

57%

2

29%

1

14%

7

100%

Public sector bodies

3

75%

1

25%

0

0%

4

100%

Other organisations

3

50%

3

50%

0

0%

6

100%

All organisations

14

52%

12

44%

1

4%

27

100%

All respondents

67

59%

35

31%

11

10%

113

100%

Percentages do not all total 100% due to rounding.

One respondent answered 'Yes' and 'No' - this response has been excluded from the analysis.

5.4 As with a power to stop and search children and young people, the comments indicate that respondents often recognised advantages and disadvantages with a power to stop and search adults suspected of supplying alcohol, regardless of whether they answered 'Yes' or 'No' at Question 3. For many there was an issue of the balance to be struck in achieving benefits and avoiding possible negative effects. The points made by those who answered 'Don't know' were similar to those made by other respondents and are not addressed separately.

5.5 The overall level of agreement at Question 3 was higher than at Question 1, and respondents' comments also suggested a different degree of concern about this option.

Support for the new power

5.6 Respondents who supported this measure generally offered only brief comments to explain their views, often simply stating that the power would protect children and young people and promote community safety, and reduce drinking amongst this demographic. Those offering fuller comments noted the following:

  • Adults are a major source of alcohol for children and young people (as evidenced by SALSUS data), and this measure - unlike the option of a power to search children and young people - would tackle the supply of alcohol to those under the age of 18.
  • The new power would be a deterrent to adults who might purchase alcohol for children and young people.
  • Supply of alcohol was a more serious crime than possession (by children and young people) and a new power to search potential suppliers (i.e. adults) would be a proportionate measure.
  • Adults were aware of their responsibilities not to supply alcohol to those under the age of 18, and it was appropriate that the law in this area was enforced.
  • The new power would reinforce the messages that alcohol is a dangerous substance for children and young people and that there are repercussions for breaking the law (e.g. by purchasing alcohol for under-age drinkers).

5.7 One individual argued that searching adults was more 'acceptable' than searching children as they had a 'better understanding of the situation'. (The comments overall in response to this question suggested that respondents felt there were fewer sensitivities about this issue.)

Caveats and qualifications

5.8 Respondents who agreed with the proposed new power nevertheless offered a range of caveats and qualifications to their overall views, including the following:

  • That this measure should not be seen as the only approach to tackling under-age drinking and should not operate in isolation
  • That searches that recovered alcohol might provide an opportunity to offer information and advice to the adult concerned about the dangers of alcohol consumption by young people
  • That the consultation did not make it clear how this power would be provided for in legislation.

Opposition to the new power

5.9 Respondents who opposed the introduction of this new power recognised the supply of alcohol to children and young people by adults as a significant issue, but nevertheless did not think a new statutory search power was the right way to tackle this. In many cases the arguments put forward were similar to those put forward in opposing a statutory power to search children and young people, with respondents - mainly organisations - highlighting the following:

  • The low success rate of current stop and search operations
  • The availability of other existing legislative options - e.g. powers of seizure and the offence of purchasing alcohol for a minor. One respondent highlighted new provisions in the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 (section 53) making it an offence to buy alcohol for a child or young person to consume in public which were yet to be enacted, and suggested that the impact of this should be assessed before any additional powers were considered
  • The potential for abuse and targeting of particular (disadvantaged) communities
  • The possible negative impact on relations between the police and individuals and communities.

5.10 Respondents also favoured other ways of tackling the issue of supply by adults - e.g. education, support, working with retailers to improve sales practices related to sales, etc.

5.11 Those focusing on issues specific to searching adults suspecting of supplying alcohol commented on two main (linked) issues: (i) the formulation of the legislation; and (ii) the challenges of using the power.

  • Respondents queried how any legislation might be worded in order to provide clear guidance on what constituted 'reasonable grounds for suspicion' and avoid inconsistency in the way the power was used.
  • Respondents queried how the power would be interpreted and used in practice and how easy it would be to establish 'intent' to supply. They stressed the importance of having strong evidence for a search to take place.

5.12 Respondents opposed to the introduction of a new power also made a number of other points. These included the following:

  • That children and young people would find alternative ways of acquiring alcohol if supply from adults was reduced as a result of a new power to search
  • That supply of alcohol by adults to children can be part of a wider pattern of behaviour linked to grooming and child exploitation and that any legislation and enforcement activity needed to be alert to this
  • That a new power would be a waste of police time and resources.

Other comments

5.13 As with Question 1, one policing respondent argued for delaying a decision until after the withdrawal of consensual stop and search and the introduction of the new Code of Practice. Should a new power be deemed necessary at that point, this respondent favoured a power that might be used only if a person refused to surrender alcohol upon request.


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