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Cracking down on teen tipplers

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 30/03/2016

Scores of teenagers were taken to hospital suffering from an excess of alcohol
Scores of teenagers were taken to hospital suffering from an excess of alcohol

It was frightening for families caught up in the disturbances when gangs of alcohol-fuelled teenagers went on the rampage in some of Northern Ireland's most popular seaside resorts over the Easter holidays. Even more worrying was the sight of young people in distress from the result of their binge-drinking.

Scores of teenagers were taken to hospital suffering from an excess of alcohol and one can only imagine the shock of their parents when told what had happened.

Police mounted a major operation to seize hundreds of bottles of alcohol from under-age drinkers in Newcastle, Bangor and Portrush and apprehend those responsible for anti-social behaviour.

That was a commendable reaction given the youth of some of those guilty of binge-drinking. There are reports of children as young as 12 being under the influence and it is natural to wonder where their parents were or how they had been allowed to go unsupervised far from home.

Alcohol abuse can have potentially lethal results. Recently it was reported that deaths from alcohol-related illnesses have doubled in Northern Ireland in the 20 years since the end of the Troubles. In 2013, some 236 alcohol-related deaths were reported in the country.

It is proper to clamp down on teenage drinking as failure to do so can result in a plethora of problems later in life - family break-ups, illnesses and even premature death.

Perhaps Northern Ireland should consider introducing price controls on cheap supermarket and off-licence drink to discourage young people over-indulging.

On a wider context, many people will compare the attitude of police to this problem and their lack of evident action against other illegal street activity over Easter. The Chief Constable may argue that surveillance of illegal dissident republican marches with a view to future prosecutions was the sensible option but the public may see it as the soft option. That these marches were due to take place was widely known to the media - and thus presumably by the PSNI - and it is a blow to the rule of law to see it so blatantly flouted. This newspaper has consistently argued that the force should be given the required resources to combat dissident republican criminality. That is still our position but the Chief Constable should explain what his policing priorities are and how he intends to enforce them.

Belfast Telegraph

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