Crackdown on super-strength booze would ‘protect the young’

A ban on super-strength alcoholic drinks in Sudbury is a step closer after councillors gave the scheme their support.

Suffolk Police’s “reducing the strength” campaign, which asks shops and supermarkets to stop selling beer, lager and cider above 6.5 per cent alcohol by volume, has been successfully launched in Ipswich, which saw a 50 per cent drop in anti-social behaviour since September.

Pc Jake Lees, who is spearheading the campaign to make Sudbury just the second town in the country to adopt the idea, met with Sudbury Town Council’s leisure and environment committee on Tuesday.

He said: “The whole point is we can prevent the issues that come from drinking in the street and protect young people from harm. I see it time and again where they start binge drinking on these products and move on to other things.”

Pc Lees explained that 81 retailers in Ipswich had signed up to the scheme, with Ipswich Borough Council giving them free variations to their licences to cover the ban on super-strength alcohol and the shops getting a plaque stating they are part of the scheme.

He said that independent shops and the East of England Co-Op reported minimal or no effects on profits, while two retailers reported increases.

“I have emailed Lee Carvell in Babergh District Council’s licensing department and he said it is unlikely it will offer a free variation. I am still waiting to see what it would offer,” said Pc Lees.

“It is a win-win situation, as the people that rely on these products will have to drink lower strength drinks, and therefore buy more.”

The ban would not apply to pubs and nightclubs.

Pc Lees said the impact of people drinking strong alcoholic drinks in large volumes was felt on the resources of the police and the NHS.

“We are trying to reduce that impact – this scheme has got legs,” he said.

“It has been proved it works in Ipswich and I think it can have a positive effect in Sudbury.”

Councillor Nigel Bennett asked: “Do you feel there is a need for this in Sudbury? When we have our police report, will this make a difference to it?”

Pc Lees said: “Eventually, this will be going out across Suffolk and I imagine the rest of the UK – I want to be one step ahead of that.

“We are completely different to Ipswich – it won’t make as much of a difference but it is a step to prevent issues arising in the future and to protect people.”

Councillor Jack Owen said: “Even if you have a 10 per cent reduction, it is worth us supporting anything that is preventative rather than a cure.

“If it cuts down on some of the on-street drinking that takes place, and the problems around drinking with youngsters, this has got to be applauded.”

The committee recommended backing the scheme and approving use of the town crest. It will now go to full council on July 9.

Mr Carvell, corporate manager for licensing at Babergh District Council, was unavailable for comment.