Agenda Item No. 5
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee: 14th September, 2016
Report of the Director of Environment and Housing
The Breathalyser Pilot
Purpose of the Report
- To inform Members of the initial outcomes of the breathalyser pilot in operation throughout Barry.
That Committee note the update on the breathalyser pilot and future plans for this initiative.
Reason for the Recommendation
To assist the Committee in fulfilling its role of scrutinising partnership action to reduce crime and disorder and the fear of crime.
- There are 189 licensed premises in Barry and the Vale of Glamorgan. The late night economy in Barry is mainly focused around a number of pubs and clubs. With so many licensed premises there is always a potential for alcohol related problems.
- Acute Alcohol Intoxication (AAI) can be defined as a condition that follows the administration of a psychoactive substance and results in disturbances in the level of consciousness, cognition, perception, judgement, affect, or behaviour, or other psychophysiological functions and responses. Alcohol intoxication is manifested by such signs as facial flushing, slurred speech, unsteady gait, euphoria, increased activity, volubility, disorderly conduct, slowed reactions, impaired judgement and motor incoordination, insensibility, or stupefaction.
- Violent behaviour fuelled by AAI in and around pubs and clubs on weekend nights present a significant public health and criminal justice problem.
- Studies have shown that the peak time for violent behaviour is weekend nights and the peak location is in and around pubs and clubs. Many people are injured during these instances of violence and sometimes these injuries can be life changing.
- Alcohol contributes to this violence in many direct and indirect ways and often both the victims and perpetrators are intoxicated.
- The likelihood of involvement in assaults and the risk of injury from assault increases significantly when individuals have had more than 8 or 10 units of alcohol in one session of drinking alcohol. 8 units of alcohol is equivalent to approximately 4 pints of normal strength beer and 10 units is approximately 3 large glasses of 13% wine.
- In a national study of 18 to 24 year-olds in 2003, it was found that 17% of those reporting feeling very drunk at least once a month ('binge drinkers') had committed violent criminal acts, compared with only 4% of those who drank frequently but rarely felt very drunk ('regular drinkers'). 'Binge' drinkers were also five times more likely than 'regular' drinkers to have been involved in a group fight in public.
- In 2015 there were 412 instances of violence recorded in the Vale of Glamorgan between 18.00 and 6.00 on Friday night into Saturday morning and Saturday night into Sunday morning, of these, 61 were linked to, or mentioned, a licenced premises. There were 218 instances of violence with injury of which 41 were linked to, or mentioned, a licenced premises
- There have been a number of initiatives introduced to look at increasing the levels of safety in the night time economy and decreasing the occurrence of, and social acceptability of, extreme drunkenness in the night time economy. In particular, focus is on the number of individuals who access the night time economy already acutely intoxicated having consumed large amounts of alcohol prior to coming out in an activity now commonly referred to as 'pre-loading'.
- The breathalyser initiative was felt to be one potential way of confronting the cultural acceptance of preloading and acute alcohol intoxication, by visually demonstrating that licensed venues would no longer tolerate the entry of individuals who are acutely intoxicated into their premises with a very visual tool that is much more objective in its ability to determine an individual's level of drunkenness. It was also felt that such an initiative is likely to have a positive impact on the crime and disorder rates experienced in the late night economy as many individuals who are denied access to premises are more likely to go home as their options for continuing to drink are limited.
Relevant Issues and Options
- Locally, the evidence for, and potential barriers against, the use of breathalysers was taken to pub watch meetings for consultation with licence holders. There was an overwhelming consensus that it was believed they would facilitate a reduction in violence and acute alcohol intoxication in the night time economy especially in Barry. It was felt that there would be no benefit in promoting this scheme in areas where violence or acute alcohol intoxication prior to entry is not an issue.
- A joint bid between the Community Safety Partnership and South Wales Police was put forward to the Cardiff and Vale Area Planning Board to apply to the Welsh Government Substance Misuse Action Fund Capital allocation for 11 breathalysers that would be deployable across the Vale of Glamorgan. The bid was accepted and the scheme was launched on the 18th December 2014 in readiness for the Christmas and New Year Period.
- The breathalysers are used whenever door staff are on duty, so every Friday and Saturday night and other key events where intelligence has suggested that additional security is needed such as certain sporting events, Halloween, bank holidays, New Year's Eve etc.
- The breathalysers chosen were carefully selected on their appropriateness to the night time economy setting. The 'alcoblow' model purchased requires the individual to blow on the device rather than in a tube thus removing the revenue cost of purchasing replacement tubes.
- The device operates a green-amber-red traffic lights system of revealing intoxication as opposed to giving a reading of alcohol in the breath. This was seen as important in order to not have to set a minimum level of intoxication for refusal of entry. Given that it is now established that no amount of alcohol is 'safe' it felt that in order to be in keeping with this important public health message, no amount is set to determine whether you are too drunk to enter a venue and that this instead is based on the discretion of the door staff.
- Venue managers were asked to sign a service level agreement for the use of the breathalysers and their door staff were given training on how to use the device. Rather than being used as an enforcement tool where individuals are randomly breathalysed and refused or permitted entry based solely on the reading from the breathalyser (a tactic utilised in Liverpool, which feedback has suggested was successful) the devices are used on individuals who door staff would otherwise have refused to because of their obvious signs of intoxication. The device therefore is used as an aid, and has the purpose of being a highly visual demonstration that acute intoxication is something that is being tackled and isn't permitted in our late night economy.
- In order to ensure the successful implementation of the scheme it was agreed that door staff would not have to keep records of the number of times the breathalyser was used as it is unrealistic to expect paper work to be completed meaningfully or accurately by individuals undertaking such a role. Instead feedback has been gathered and monitored by the licensing officer for South Wales Police. Reports are then provided to the bimonthly Area Planning Board Alcohol Group who is responsible for monitoring the pilot.
- To date, the breathalysers have been seen as a positive implementation and have resulted in a number of positive refusals into venues of individuals who were acutely intoxicated. Door staff have reported that they have noticed a significant improvement in the attitude of individuals being turned away where, with the 'proof' provided through the use of a device individuals have left courteously rather than becoming aggressive and continuing to insist upon gaining entry.
- During the Christmas period, in 2014 there were 13 instances of violence and/or violence with injury in the Vale of Glamorgan between 18.00 and 6.00 on Friday night into Saturday morning and Saturday night into Sunday morning in and around licensed premises. This figure went down to 7 during the Christmas period 2015. Although it is not possible to attribute this in its entirety to the breathalyser pilot it is anticipated that the breathalysers have helped to diffuse situations that would otherwise have resulted in violence and have contributed to individuals not being able to become intoxicated when in the late night economy.
- Discussions are currently underway for the pilot to be expanded into other pubs across the Vale.
- Discussions are also being held with Community Safety teams to look at rolling out additional breathalysers to support the prevention of underage drinking. The device has a unique feature which allows it to detect if alcohol is present in a glass by holding the device above the liquid that is suspected to contain alcohol. This was piloted in Cardiff during an under 18s event and proved successful in identifying alcoholic drinks thus enabling a greater level of preventative and educational work.
- The pilot is due to run for a year, following which an evaluation will take place looking at the impact of the breathalysers on the night time economy as a whole and the impact on and around individual premises. The evaluation will compare figures reporting violent crime in the night time economy over the year that the breathalysers were in action and the year that the breathalysers were not and will look at EU data to analyse instances and severity of acute alcohol intoxication. The evaluation will also look at qualitative data through questionnaires to licenced premises using the breathalysers to get an idea of how the breathalysers might have impacted on the behaviour and activity within their venues as well as interviews with the door staff to gather evidence on how they have perceived a difference in managing access to venues with the aid of the breathalysers.
- Discussions with Cardiff University are also being held to consider the feasibility of running a more elaborate evaluation of the pilot.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
- The project was accessed through a one off application to Welsh Government therefore there is no recurrent funding. There is no requirement for ongoing funding as there is no need to purchase tubes and neither the use nor monitoring represent additional tasks to the police or door staff.
- The unit cost of one breathalyser was £180 with an additional £15.00 cost per unit for a silicon protection cover.
- The cost of violent crime is notoriously difficult to measure especially in the context of the night time economy where there is an important distinction, in terms of victim costs, between violence against a stranger, violence against a known individual and the level of intoxication of the victim. For this reason, locally, South Wales Police has not analysed crime in terms of its average or potential unit cost. A Home Office report in 2005 estimated the potential unit cost of an incident of violence against the person at £19,000.00 factoring in the cost to the victim, health board, criminal justice system and other fall out costs. With this in mind, the financial benefits for the use of breathalysers, if they can successfully bring down the number of instances of violence against the person, are clear.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
- Instances of alcohol related crime can have a detrimental impact on the economic activity of a local area. Creating a safer environment for our pubs and clubs could encourage their patronage and assist with ensuring their economic viability.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
- The service level agreement between South Wales Police and the Venues using the breathalysers has been signed.
Crime and Disorder Implications
- The breathalyser pilot is expected to reduce the level and number of violent incidents in the Barry night time economy both directly (when individuals are refused entry) and indirectly (by reducing the overall number of acutely intoxicated individuals in the night time economy).
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
- The pilot will impact on all individuals deemed to be acutely intoxicated in the night time economy regardless of their situation, beliefs, ethnicity or circumstance.
- The report is consistent with the wellbeing outcome: An Inclusive and Safer Vale and contributes towards objective 2: Providing Decent Homes and Safe Communities. Specifically the use of the breathalyser equipment could assist in contributing towards the following action: Present and Tackle incidents of anti-social behaviour including implementing restorative justice approaches for young people.
Policy Framework and Budget
- This report is within the policy framework and budget.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
- Individual ward member consultation has not been undertaken as ultimately this is a Vale wide initiative.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
- Homes and Safe Communities.
36. Service Level Agreement between SWP and licensed premises.
37. Application to Welsh Government for funds.
1. Allen, J., Nicholas, S., Salisbury, H. and Wood, M. (2003). Nature of burglary, vehicle and violent crime in C. Flood-Page and J. Taylor (eds).
2 Murdoch, D., Pihl, R.O. and Ross, D. (1990). Alcohol and crimes of violence: present issues.
3 Shepherd, J. and Brickley, M. (1996). The relationship between alcohol intoxication, stressors and injury in urban violence.
4 Richardson A, Budd T (2003) Young adults, alcohol, crime and disorder.
Deborah Gibbs - Safer Vale Manager
Committee Reports - Legal
Licensing Officer - South Wales Police
Area Planning Board
Accountant - Housing
Miles Punter - Director of Environment and Housing