Thames Valley Police ponder strong alcohol ban

Street drinker PHOTO: Thinkstock
Image caption Homeless charities have said they would support a scheme to remove strong alcohol from shops

A scheme to limit the sale of super strength lagers could be coming to town centres in the Thames Valley.

It follows the launch of a voluntary scheme in Ipswich where around half the town's shops have agreed to remove strong lager and cider from shelves.

Thames Valley Police neighbourhood teams are already considering whether the scheme could work in Reading.

Homeless charities in both Oxford and Reading have said they would support a similar strategy.

Ian Caren, of Reading charity Launchpad, said: "With the sale of super strength lager, you are giving very vulnerable people the ability to damage themselves considerably."

Thames Valley Police neighbourhood sergeant for Reading, Rob Pitman, said police were "making headway" in tackling the problem but had also consulted Suffolk Police about how to curb the sale of super-strength alcohol.

'Cheap and strong'

He said: "We like the idea but we would need to do more consultation before we can roll it out."

Lesley Dewhurst, chief executive of Oxford Homeless Pathways, said: "I think it would be very good to do in Oxford.

"I would say something in the region of 60% of people who use our hostel have alcohol problems. By and large, that is the kind of thing they buy - it's cheap and strong and that's what they go for."

An Oxford City Council spokesman said the authority was taking an interest in the Ipswich scheme but it was too early to say whether something similar would work in the city.

According to London charity Thames Reach, super strength alcohol kills more homeless people than heroin or crack cocaine.

Spokesman Mike Nicholas said: "A single can of 9% lager contains a massive four and a half units of alcohol. It only takes one can to exceed the government's daily recommended safe alcohol limit of three to four units for men and two to three units for women."

Henry Ashworth, chief executive of Portman Group, which operates a code of practice for the drinks industry, said it was questionable whether removing the drinks from shelves was the best way to help people who misused alcohol.

The Ipswich scheme was launched in September. The council is also waiving fees to licensees to alter licences to exclude the sale of strong lagers.

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