Australian Institute of Criminology

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Study finds that alcohol leads to weekend assaults

Media Release

04 May 2011

THE HON BRENDAN O’CONNOR MP
MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS AND JUSTICE

The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Brendan O’Connor today released a new study that shows alcohol is a major contributor to offences committed on weekends.

“It is little wonder that some young men are ending up in court on assault charges after drinking an average of 22 standard drinks in the hours before their crime - that’s equal to a 700ml bottle of spirits or about 16 bottles of beer,” Mr O’Connor said.

The findings come ahead of next weekend’s Operation Unite - a major police crackdown on alcohol related crime across Australia and New Zealand.

“There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks on a Friday or Saturday night, but too many people take it to the extreme and end up committing assault,” Mr O’Connor said.

“We know that the combination of youth, alcohol and night spots can often equal violence and this study provides more detail about that all-too-common scenario,” Mr O’Connor said.

The Australian Institute of Criminology surveyed 170 assault offenders detained by police between 6pm and 6am on Friday and Saturday night across nine sites: Bankstown, Parramatta, Kings Cross, Footscray, East Perth, Darwin, Brisbane, Southport and Adelaide.

The results were compared with information from 744 detainees charged at other times and stark differences were revealed.

The Drugs Use Monitoring in Australia report found that assault offenders detained over the weekend were more likely than those detained during the week to:

  • have consumed alcohol in the 48 hours prior to their arrest - 70% compared to 50%
  • be aged between 18 and 25 years  - 51% compared to 39%
  • have last consumed alcohol at a licensed premise - 30% compared to 19%
  • have been drinking a mix of different drinks - 39% compared to 20%.

The study found that the median number of standard drinks consumed by assault offenders was 14 – that’s about ten bottles of full-strength beer.

Young male offenders who’d been drinking a variety of alcoholic drinks consumed the greatest amount of alcohol, with a median of 22 standard drinks in the hours before they offended.

Men consumed a greater number of standard drinks than women - 15 standard drinks compared to 9. Men aged between 18 and 25 consumed more alcohol than men aged over 36 – with 16 standard drinks for young men compared with 10 standard drinks for older drinkers.

“The AIC’s findings reinforce that alcohol is a key factor for many people who are arrested for assault offences on Friday and Saturday nights,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Excessive alcohol is bad news for offenders – but also terrible for their victims, friends, relatives and our hardworking police officers.”

“These findings will help inform police strategies such as Operation Unite and assist in developing better policies to address anti-social behaviour and alcohol-related crime,” he said.

This information can be used in the development of policy approaches such as regulatory controls, licensing restrictions and mandatory responsible service of alcohol provisions, as well as social marketing and public awareness campaigns.

“I hope all Australians will heed these findings and think before they drink.”

Media Adviser: Jayne Stinson 0458 547 512 jayne.stinson@ag.gov.au