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The North East’s Police and Crime Commissioners show strong support for victims of the effects of excessive alcohol consumption

18th February 2016

The consequences of excessive alcohol consumption were shown in sharp relief at a major conference hosted by the North East’s three Police and Crime Commissioners in Durham today. Speakers at the event included:

– Jon Foster, Senior Research and Policy Officer, Institute of Alcohol Studies

– Professor Dorothy Newbury Birch, Professor of Alcohol and Public Health Research, Teesside University

– Colin Shevills, Director of Balance

– Maxine Thompson of One Punch North East

– Miriam Davidson, Director of Public Health for Darlington

– Kirsty Gail-Wilkinson, Public Health Portfolio Holder for Durham County Council

The conference heard the heart-breaking story of Kristian Thompson, a County Durham teenager who died in rehabilitation months after being hit by a single punch in 2010. Since then, his mother Maxine has committed every effort to an awareness campaign called One Punch North East, using the keywords ‘stop, think and walk away’.

County Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg said “we all know what the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption can be, but only by talking to people who have suffered tragedies such as Maxine, do you really appreciate how utterly devastating they are”.

The Commissioners also backed calls from Colin Shevills, Director of Balance North East, the regional alcohol office, for the limit for driving with alcohol in the bloodstream to be reduced to the same level as was introduced in Scotland in 2014. The Commissioners recently backed a Private Members’ Bill in the House of Lords which called for the same reduction, and have today received a letter from the Secretary of State for Transport, stating that the Government ‘has no plans to change the drink driving limit in England and Wales’.

Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said “This response provides no comfort to the victims of drink-driving. In Scotland the new limit has led to a 17% reduction in drink-drive offences. The three PCCs in the North East region will continue campaigning for a lower drink-drive limit to bring into line with most of the rest of Europe.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, announced that the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners Alcohol Working Group have secured a meeting with members of the House of Lords in March, to enable these issues to be highlighted in Parliament. Speaking after the event, Vera Baird said:

“There was an excellent turn-out at the conference today, and very strong support amongst the 150 delegates for the measures we are asking for. We have a clear mandate in the North East to press the Government to reduce the drink-driving limit, to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol, and to review the licensing laws.“