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Police chief demands rise in drinking age to 21


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Police chief demands rise in drinking age to 21

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By LIZ HULL - More by this author ยป Last updated at 23:47pm on 14th August 2007 commentIconSm.gif Comments

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A police chief has called for the legal drinking age to be raised to 21 following the killing of devoted father Garry Newlove.

Cheshire Chief Constable Peter Fahy also condemned feckless parents.

He said the combination of cheap, strong alcohol and some parents' willingness to turn a blind eye had left his force fighting a "constant battle" against drink-induced violence and loutish behaviour.

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Mr Newlove, 47, died at the weekend after being punched and kicked when he confronted a group of youths outside his home in Warrington, Cheshire. His attackers are said to have been drinking.

Mr Fahy, one of the country's most senior officers, spoke out as three youths, two of them brothers, appeared in court accused of murder.

They came face to face with grieving members of Mr Newlove's family during a brief hearing.

The police chief insisted: "We cannot have a society where adults feel scared to go out and challenge youngsters up to no good. This just breeds fear and isolation."

Mr Fahy said: "Every night of the week Cheshire officers are engaged in a constant battle against antisocial behaviour and alcohol-induced violence.

"Most of the bad behaviour is fuelled by alcohol - much of it supplied by adults, including some parents.

"I know that a hard core of parents turn a blind eye to the fact that their youngsters are out there, drinking under age and congregating in places where they cause nuisance to others.

"Young males in particular are far more aggressive and prone to use violence when they have been drinking."

Mr Fahy, who revealed that he was patrolling near Mr Newlove's home only hours before the attack, added: "Alcohol is too cheap, too readily available and too strong. Young people cannot handle it.

"I would like to see the legal drinking age raised to 21 and the price of alcohol raised, particularly higher-strength beers."

His comments came as figures showed that violent attacks in pubs and nightclubs increased by 55 per cent in the Devon and Cornwall police area after 24-hour drinking was introduced.

The revelation is sure to put extra pressure on Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has already promised a review of the new drink laws.

Recent NHS statistics showed that the number of young people drinking alcohol is falling, but the amount they consume has almost doubled in five years.

In June this year, a survey found that thousands of teenagers are binge-drinking at least once a week. Of 12,000 14 to 17-year-olds interviewed by the Trading Standards Institute, 51 per cent admitted they became violent when drunk.

The figures were released against a backdrop of spiralling violent crime among young people.

Last year the number of under-18s punished for a violent offence rose by 19 per cent - from 9,516 to 11,285.

Despite the surge, only one 50 were locked up - the majority escaped with a caution, fine or community penalty.

Mr Newlove, a father of three, was attacked in front of his eldest daughter Zoe, 18, at around 10.30pm last Friday.

The company director, who beat stomach cancer 12 years ago, had gone out to confront a group of youths he believed were damaging his car and a mechanical digger on a neighbour's driveway.

He died in hospital two days later. Mr Fahy also called for the police to be given improved powers to order youths back home if they were congregating on the streets.

He said: "The policy of seizing alcohol from young people is often of limited use when those young people can get their hands on more alcohol so easily.

"I would support a power for police officers to order groups of young people home when they are causing a nuisance without having to designate a whole area a dispersal zone.

"As a nation we need those who sell the alcohol to young people, those who price strong alcohol so cheaply, those who promote alcohol as glamorous, those parents who turn a blind eye to where their children are, those teenagers who ignore the rights of others to live without intimidation or abuse ...to rack their conscience and consider what duty they have to beat the scourge of anti-social behaviour by young people."

Mr Fahy's broadside followed dramatic scenes at Runcorn Youth Court where Mr Newlove's alleged killers - two brothers who are both 15 but not twins and their 16-year- old friend - appeared charged with murder.

With relatives of Mr Newlove sitting just a few feet away, the mothers of the children sobbed as their sons were led into the dock in handcuffs.

The mother of the brothers, who were wearing matching grey sweatshirts and were separated by a security guard, also grasped the hand of her partner for support.

All three boys spoke only to confirm their names, dates of birth and addresses.

Quentin Greenwood, chairman of the bench, adjourned the case until Monday.

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Sorry, but raising the age to 21 won't stop a fucking thing.

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The kids will still get alcohol, the only effect will be genuine 18 to 21 year olds who want to go out in the evening for a round of drinks to celebrate something being victimise against

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