Inquiry: bottle shops and violence link

POLICE Commissioner Andrew Scipione has questioned the lack of regulation of alcohol purchases from bottle shops and linked the easy availability of takeaway alcohol to stubbornly high rates of domestic violence.

The issue will be examined, at Mr Scipione’s request, by a newly formed alcohol policy working group comprising senior police and NSW bureaucrats that will present options to the state government.

The group, formed this year, is conducting a comprehensive review of the state’s alcohol licensing system in response to an offer by Premier Barry O’Farrell last year to give police whatever support they need to tackle alcohol-related violence.

The group will also examine venue and outlet density, which it believes is a ‘‘critical issue’’ for alcohol policy in NSW.

In an interview about measures the police are taking to combat alcohol-related violence, Mr Scipione said the numbers of non-domestic violence, alcohol-related assaults have been falling significantly for the past few years.

‘‘The bit that is not falling as much is the domestic violence, where alcohol is a factor – that’s the frightening bit,’’ Mr Scipione said.

‘‘Of course, that’s predominantly being fed through takeaway bottle shops. I think it’s worth looking at the impact and necessarily the sort of policy we might need to develop to inform government in this area.’’

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data shows that between 2007 and 2011, the average annual rate of alcohol-related domestic violence fell 2.6 per cent. This compared with a 5.3 per cent drop in other alcohol-related assaults.

Mr Scipione said the visible effects of excess drinking on weekends and at major events was the ‘‘tip’’ of the issue, but domestic violence was emerging as the ‘‘iceberg’’ of alcohol policy in NSW.

‘‘That’s what worries me: when there are incentives given to people to come in and fill up the car [with alcohol] and if you wanted to buy it over the bar you would have severe restrictions,’’ Mr Scipione said.

‘‘In this situation you can go and fill the car up and as quickly as you can throw it down your throat you can come back the next day and fill it up again.

‘‘There is no responsibility in this and by its nature there’s not, because it’s something that’s done in private. But what we do know is that it’s causing enormous damage, particularly to women and children.’’

He quoted a national poll conducted for the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation, published last month, which showed 69 per cent of adults supported a ban on alcohol advertising on television before 8.30pm.

Acknowledging the issue of advertising was largely a federal one, Mr Scipione nonetheless said there were some concerns with the marketing undertaken by bottle shops.

‘‘I know there’s a problem, at least in my mind, when I’ve got a brochure that gets shoved into my letter box at home and it shows me I can buy a can of beer effectively cheaper than I can go downstairs here at lunch time and buy a can of Coke,’’ Mr Scipione said.

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