Drink too much, and Christmas becomes the season for folly

Being drunk should not absolve an offender of guilt and should not lessen his responsibility for his actions, so says Trevor Laffan in his weekly column.
Drink too much, and Christmas becomes the season for folly

CHRISTMAS SPIRIT: But over-indulging in alcohol can lead to criminal acts, warns Trevor Laffan. Picture posed by models

JUST in case you’ve been living in a jungle for the last 50 years, allow me to let you into a little secret. We have a huge problem with alcohol.

The relationship that many of us have with drink is unhealthy, and despite the substantial amount of money and effort that has gone into changing our culture of socialising, we are still as bad as ever. In fact, we may even be getting worse.

I was in a pub recently having drinks with a few friends when at about 9pm the doors burst open and there was an invasion of young people. They were delivered to the venue by a private bus.

I mean it when I say they were young because they were there for an 18th birthday party. The majority of them were already drunk when they came in and many had difficulty in standing up. Sitting down even posed a problem for some of them.

After about 20 minutes they had the toilets destroyed with wet toilet paper and hand towels thrown everywhere.

I went in to the gents’ toilet at one stage and there was a mixture of boys and girls standing around chatting as if it was a public park.

I saw youngsters falling on the floor because they couldn’t manage to get into a seat. There was one young guy who was trying to sit next to a girl that he had his eye on. He made his way towards the chair like a tiger stalking a deer. He wasn’t as sure footed as a tiger and he somehow managed to end up underneath it. He had great difficulty trying to escape from his trap.

This was very early on in the night and we left around 10pm so I have no idea how it ended up. But I would hazard a guess that it was not a pretty sight by closing time.

Even at that stage, there were signs that some of them were becoming messy and a little aggressive. Statistics would suggest that incidents of assault and anti-social behaviour would be likely to occur as the night wore on.

According to the Garda Analysis Service, 83% of offenders in assault cases are male and the majority are aged between 18 and 39 years old. These assaults typically take place in and around public places such as streets, roads, pubs, and clubs between 8pm and 5am and primarily at the weekend.

Around a quarter of the assaults that are linked to the night-time economy involve intoxication of either the offender or the victim, or both.

Seven out of every 10 assaults involve men attacking other men, while three-quarters of all assault victims are also male.

I’m pretty sure that most people won’t be surprised by this. The fact that young men fight in the early hours of the morning, after a feed of drink, particularly at the weekends, is hardly earth-shattering news.

Alcohol plays a significant part in the vast majority of these assaults and the culture of binge drinking has to be a significant factor.

Alcohol consumption is often offered as a legitimate excuse for someone’s bad behaviour. It is regularly used by offenders to justify their poor judgement and is also regularly used by defendants in court in the hope of gaining some sympathy from the presiding judge.

Being drunk should not absolve an offender of guilt and should not lessen his responsibility for his actions.

A simple punch, or even a push, can result in a victim banging his head on a solid surface which can cause serious injury and even death. A recent campaign by An Garda Siochana was designed to highlight this potential danger and to encourage young people to consider the likely outcome of their actions before they get involved in a conflict situation.

For the average uniformed policeman, routine patrolling is what constitutes an average working day. Public order issues are probably the single biggest item that he or she will come up against. It is a major issue across the country, particularly at weekends after pubs and clubs close and a considerable amount of garda time and resources are tied up, dealing with these types of incidents.

Simple cases involving drunken scraps and assaults can be very time- consuming, and they are played out with monotonous regularity around the country, week in and week out.

A person who has been convicted of a serious assault will have to live with the consequences of that incident for the rest of their life, even though the incident itself may have only lasted for a matter of seconds. Their victim may be maimed, disfigured or worse.

The conviction will remove the possibility of obtaining a visa and that will impact upon their travel and employment opportunities. That recorded conviction will remain with them for life as a constant reminder of their moment of madness.

Embarrassment and remorse are experienced by the vast majority of offenders once they sober up and re-join the real world. As reality begins to dawn on them, they wish that they could turn back the clock. They swear that they never intended for things to turn out the way they did and they say how sorry they are. Unfortunately, this is of little benefit to the victims.

In the cold light of day, when people come to their sober senses, they start to consider the consequences of their actions, but it’s too late at that stage. The damage has been done.

If they could just reduce their intake of alcohol they would save themselves, their victims, the gardaí and the justice system a lot of trouble. This might be worth keeping in mind as we enter the festive season.

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