Tuesday, February 12, 2008

David Davis: Lock up all teenagers

A press release from the Conservatives is so stupid that it is worth reproducing in full:

Figures unearthed by the Conservatives reveal that under-age children who try to buy alcohol illegally are going unpunished.

Over a million youths are refused alcohol in pubs every month, and there were a further 300,000 refusals from one off-licence chain alone last year.

But fewer than a hundred individuals a year are punished for trying to buy alcohol illegally, meaning there is less than a 1 in 100,000 chance of under-age youths receiving any sanction whatsoever.

Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said:

"The government's basic failure to enforce the law sends totally the wrong message about under-age drinking and puts the public at risk from the spiralling violence it generates."

Where to begin? If "over a million youths are refused alcohol in pubs every month, and there were a further 300,000 refusals from one off-licence chain alone last year," then it is pretty clear that something close to the entire population of under-age youths is trying to buy alcohol. How does David Davis propose to punish them all? Build a borstal in every town? Employ another half million probation workers?

The truth is that teenagers will always try to buy drink before the law allows them to. Indeed it very arguable that there was less trouble when this law was not enforced as strictly as it is now.

And I do feel sorry for the shopkeepers and bar staff who have to enforce the law. In every other way we are encouraged to treat 16-year-olds as adults and in many ways the teenagers themselves are encouraged to hold adult authority in contempt. But it someone selling alcohol is flouting the licensing laws ultimately it is they who must be held responsible.

Note too Davis's adoption of the absurd idea that the purpose of the law is to "send a message".

3 comments:

Tristan said...

David Davis is one of those Tories who alternate between quite sensible liberal/libertarian positions (such as opposition to ID cards on civil liberties grounds) and Tory hang 'em' and flog 'em' positions.

On selling alcohol to underage drinkers - they are punished if caught, very severely. Of course they're mostly caught by the police going on fishing trips and sending in old-looking-for-their-age 17 year olds to buy alcohol.

phil said...

I've never understood the logic of this - it seems to be predicated on the idea that under-18s are not responsible enough to drink, but perfectly responsible enough to be punished for trying to. Now what kind of "message" does that "send"?

Tom Barney said...

You don't mention that Davis misses the point that, if there are so many refusals then, contrary to his assertion, the law is being enforced.