Drink 'a factor in 44% of arrests'
Published 08/11/2011 | 16:12
Alcohol was a factor in 44% of all the arrests made by police in a single year, the Assembly has heard.
Justice Minister David Ford also told MLAs that alcohol-related crime costs the police, courts and prisons nearly £400 million each year.
The figures came in response to Assembly questions on the issue and follow proposals to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol in Northern Ireland.
Mr Ford said: "As I understand it, the proposals for minimum unit pricing concentrate on the health consequences.
"In my response to the recent public consultation on this issue I did, however, recognise that there are potential criminal justice benefits to removing cheap alcoholic drinks, as police analysis of crimes during 2010 suggested alcohol was a contributory factor for 44% of all those arrested."
He added: "It is important to note, however, that while the introduction of minimum pricing should indeed make a valuable contribution in reducing damage to health in individuals and communities, the proposal on its own will not solve the alcohol misuse problem."
Mr Ford said: "Similarly in the report last year, the report for the cost of alcohol related crime to the Department of Justice - that is to policing, to prisons, and to courts services - was £382 million for the year.
"I am always suspicious of something which purports to be quite so precise a figure, but it is clear that it is an extremely substantial figure."
South Down DUP representative Jim Wells said of the minister's comments: "That is an extraordinary revelation that the minister has just given to us. That for 44% of those who are arrested, alcohol is a factor.
"I think that is the first time that has ever been in the public domain, and I thank him for it."