Police crackdown on underage drinkers

AS they continue their crackdown on underage drinking, police swooped on Saturday night to confiscate large amounts of alcohol from Borders teenagers making their way to a dance in Kelso.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 31st March 2010, 12:41 pm
Updated Wednesday, 31st March 2010, 12:41 pm

This was just a day before a national Sunday newspaper reported that pupils from one Borders school, believed to be, but not confirmed as Berwickshire High, stocked up on alcohol during a trip to the First World War battlefields in France.

And with 28 under-18s admitted to Borders General Hospital in the past year with alcohol-related problems and 20 per cent of 15 year olds in the region admitting to binge drinking, this paints a worrying picture.

Saturday's dance at Springwood Park was a 'leaving do', organised by sixth year pupils from schools around the region, and despite the fact that both the venue and caterers insisted it was to be a non-alcohol event, youngsters attempted to take drink along with them.

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However, their plans were thwarted as anticipating this might happen, officers from Lothian and Borders Police intercepted buses leaving from pick up points in Duns, Galashiels and Hawick and there was also a high visibility presence as an estimated 360 youngsters arrived at the showground for the event.

And the amount of alcohol seized makes for quite startling reading.

In total police officers confiscated 76 bottles/cans of lager, five litres of cider, 12 bottles of wine, five litres of vodka, seven litres of mixed spirits, two litres of spirits in juice bottles and one bottle of Amaretto.

Local Inspector, Brian Macfarlane said he was taken aback by the amount of alcohol retrieved and said early intervention was vital.

He commented: "We became aware of the event through our licensing department and our locality officers who work closely with the schools in our area.

"The dance was organised by the youngsters themselves, which I didn't have a problem with, but I was told that a number of pupils were intent on taking alcohol along. This was in spite of instructions from both the Border Union Showground and the caterers that no alcohol be consumed at the event.

"Rather than simply wait for the children to arrive at Springwood Park, officers from across the Borders were told about the event, which allowed us to intervene at an early stage by taking alcohol from the children before they left the pick up points.

"I was a bit shocked by just how much officers took, and if we hadn't done something I think the potential would have been there for some of the youngsters to put themselves in a vulnerable state due to their excessive alcohol consumption.

"I'm most concerned by the fact that so many of the youngsters managed to source the alcohol in the first place."

The main issue with the event was that a lot of the pupils attending were still 17 and Inspector Macfarlane said he'd noticed a trend that even if youngsters aren't allowed to drink at official functions they will host their own parties where a lot of alcohol can be consumed.

He continued:"The most pleasing thing about Saturday is that once we confiscated all of the alcohol, we had no complaints of any drunken behaviour and the event was a success."

Jackie Swanston SBC's Head of Schools (East) said that the council were working closely with Lothian and Borders Police and the situation was currently being investigated.

The police operations to seize alcohol from youngsters on Saturday evening came just hours before an article in 'The Mail on Sunday' reported that a school trip across the Channel by one Borders school was tarnished after a number of students bought alcohol.

This school is believed to be Berwickshire High, but both the school and Scottish Borders Council have declined to confirm this.

However, a spokesperson for the council said there was a complete ban on alcohol on school trips and the reported incident was the first of its kind over a three year period.

Commenting further, SBC's director of education, Glenn Rodger said: "The particular trip in question lasted six days. At the start of the trip, the pupils were allocated time for shopping in Brugge during which several bottles of alcohol were purchased.

"Later in the evening, one pupil complained of feeling unwell and admitted to having purchased and drunk alcohol. Rooms were searched and pupils interviewed. All of the drinks were confiscated and poured down a sink.

"On return to school, all pupils were interviewed by senior staff and those involved were suspended from school. Apart from this unfortunate incident, the trip was extremely successful with very positive evaluations from the pupils themselves."

A confidential service - Face2Face - is available for young people aged 11-18 who are experiencing problems with drug or alcohol use. More information is available by ringing (01896) 668811 or by visiting www.face2faceborders.com. Information and advice is also available from www.badp.scot.nhs.uk.