Alcohol-Related Crime

Alcohol is often responsible for criminal activity and violent incidents. Drinking excessively can lower a person’s inhibitions and affect their capacity for sound judgement, as well as increasing the risk of aggressive behaviour. This contributes to a high rate of alcohol-related violence and crime in the UK – costing between £8bn-£11bn each year.

For decades, researchers have studied the connection between alcohol and crime. The results invariably show that binge-drinking or extended drinking habits greatly increase your risk of carrying out violent or criminal acts. Succumbing to the dangerous effects of alcohol can alter your life – and the lives of others – irrevocably.

Criminal activities attract severe penalties, such as jail time and/or heavy fines. Alcoholics are most prone to the risk of criminal behaviour. By far the best way to reduce such risks is to quit alcohol. Fortunately, this is possible with the help of professionals.

What is Alcohol-Related Crime?

‘Alcohol-related’ crime is a term more common in societal use than as a legal phrase. It usually comprises two major offence categories:

  • Alcohol-defined offences, like driving under the influence of alcohol or public drunkenness
  • Committed offences, where alcohol consumption is believed to have played a part – particularly in a situation where the offender was intoxicated at the time. Common examples include theft while drunk, criminal damage, breach of the peace, and other public order offences

A recent study posits that in a community of 100,000 people, each year 1% (1,000) of the population will be victims of a crime caused by alcohol inebriation.

What is the Relationship between Alcohol and Crime?

Because alcohol can lower a person’s inhibitions and impair their judgement, as well as trigger violent behaviours, it is a contributing factor in a huge number of offences.

Low doses of alcohol (for example, two to four tots of strong liquor) stimulate the central nervous system (CNS) and produce sensations of euphoria, social and physical warmth and good cheer. However, in moderate and high quantities, alcohol causes reduced coordination and visual acuity.

An inebriated individual is unable to function intelligibly and can make unsound judgements, which include committing crimes. Any crime you are guilty of committing under the influence of alcohol attracts serious legal consequences, regardless of whether you were compos mentis or not.

What are the Main Types of Alcohol-Related Crimes in the UK?

A considerable number of people serving time in jail are doing so because of alcohol-related crimes. They may vary from minor to serious crimes that include public-order offences, DUI, property crime, assault and homicide.

Roughly 47% of inmates jailed for violent crimes were under the influence of alcohol at the time of their crime. Many of these criminals had a blood alcohol content (BAC) level that was three times more than the legal driving limit when they were arrested.

The following are major types of alcohol-related crimes:

Driving while intoxicated

Drinking while drunk is considered a major offence because it can lead to road accidents that result in death. Many road users have had their lives turned upside-down because of a drunk driver; some end up in the hospital for months with broken limbs, suffer permanent damage, life-changing injury or, in the worst cases, death.

The maximum BAC (blood alcohol content) limit for England and Wales is:

  • 35 micrograms (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres (ml) of breath
  • 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood
  • 107 mg per 100 ml of urine

In Scotland, the maximum BAC is 22mg, 50mg and 67mg for 100ml of breath, blood and urine respectively. Violating the law attracts a jail sentence, fine or both, depending on the case in question.


Many cities in the UK have experienced increased robbery incidents and property-related crime as a result of alcohol abuse. About 13.5% of criminal damage cases are traced back to alcohol as a contributory factor, while 55% of non-domestic violence incidents (with injury) are alcohol-related.

Alcohol can intensify feelings of desperation in a thief and influence them to steal someone’s belongings or break into a home. Some crimes are committed so that the criminals in question can fund their alcohol addiction.

Robbing someone attracts strict legal penalties and may include jail time, a fine, a criminal record and other legal implications.

Sexual assault

Sexual assault is forcing yourself on someone against their wish. It may involve touching, kissing or partial or complete intercourse. In the UK, 18% of the most serious sexual crime cases (sexual assault and rape) reported to the police are fuelled by alcohol.

Drinking may intensify aggressive behaviour and drive sexual offenders to commit a crime. This makes them more forceful when their victims try to resist. Sexual assault can occur when one person does not consent, or if the victim is unable to approve consent because they are intoxicated by alcohol and/or other drugs.

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Aggravated assault

A common red flag of alcohol abuse is extreme mood changes and irritability. Some people tend to become violent after a long drinking bout. Impaired judgement and poor decisions (including aggression and hostility) pose a high risk of dangerous outcomes. If someone acts upon violent thoughts whilst intoxicated, it can lead to charges of aggravated assault. About 57.8% of domestic violence cases (with injury) are perpetuated by people who had high levels of alcohol in their system.

Aggravated assault means causing serious bodily harm to another person. If a weapon was used, the criminal charges will be stricter.

Intimate partner violence

Alcohol can influence crimes of passion. Aggressive behaviour is a gateway to criminal acts such as forced sexual activity, intimidation and other controlling behaviours. Intimate partner violence occurs when someone inflicts psychological, physical or sexual harm to their spouse or romantic partner.

An estimated 66% of victims of domestic violence (by a former or existing partner) report that the offender had been drinking. If you are a heavy drinker or have a partner who is, the relationship is likely to experience hardships such as financial difficulties, infidelity, child care issues and other similar challenges which can trigger alcohol-related violence.

Child Abuse

Financial difficulty, work pressure and stress can affect the quantity of alcohol a person consumes. Unfortunately, alcoholism is not only felt by the drinker, but the people around them, including friends and family members – even children too.

Researchers have discovered a link between alcoholic parents and children who suffer neglect and abuse. Approximately four in ten (40%) child abusers admitted to being intoxicated at the time of their crime. Children who are traumatised at a young age are at greater risk of developing physical and behavioural problems when they get older.


Alcohol is involved in more homicide cases than other addictive substances such as cocaine and heroin. The British Medical Association (BMA) estimates that between 60% and 70% of murders are committed by people under the influence of alcohol. Those convicted of murder stand to spend many years – potentially the rest of their lives – behind bars.

Many offenders blame their misdeeds on alcohol and request pardon, but the law rarely does so on these terms, as consumers are always advised to drink responsibly. If you are concerned that your alcohol-drinking habits could expose you to risky situations, it’s best to curtail or stop completely. See an expert for help if you are struggling to quit drinking.

Characteristics of alcohol offenders

Alcoholic offenders have a wide range of characteristics, most of which are damaging to their happiness and overall success. It can be easy to recognise some alcoholics by their often-aggressive nature and unexplained mood swings. However, other alcoholics are very good at hiding their condition from those around them.

The following characteristics are common in alcoholic offenders:

Heightened aggression and outbursts

They fail to show commitment to important obligations such as work productivity, family, and bill payments. When they are reminded of their responsibilities, they react angrily and become aggressive. Many offenders are always spoiling for a fight.

Emotional manipulation

Many alcoholic offenders are good at transferring their inner conflicts to another person – particularly a friend, romantic partner or child. Being manipulative and controlling is a common trait.

Always in financial distress

Because they use most or all their resources on alcohol, many offenders quickly run out of money. This can lead them to various criminal activities: robbery and burglary are common ways to make quick cash.

Violent and physical abuse

Alcoholic offenders often lash out at weaker people around them. Because of this, domestic violence is a common feature in homes with an alcoholic parent(s). Children also suffer physical abuse, as they may be hit deliberately or caught in a fight between their parents.

How Common are Alcohol-Related Crimes?

Most victims (53%) of violent incidents believe that the offender was under the influence of alcohol. In the UK, alcohol-related injuries are estimated to cost the NHS about £3.5 billion every year.

In addition, about 70% of violent incidents and 64% of stranger violence that occur during the weekends, evenings and at night are caused by intoxicated people. Alcohol-related crime in the UK is estimated to cost £8bn to £11bn each year.

In 2015, the state reported more than 8,000 victims of drink-driving accidents, including 1,160 grave injuries and 220 casualties.

Alcohol-Related Crime Statistics in the UK

Large-scale surveys performed in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland augment the crime data recorded by police, by adding non-notifiable offences and comprehensive victim accounts of crimes they experienced.

A survey on alcohol-related crimes was conducted by the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). The annual survey of roughly 3,000 children (between 10 and 15 years old) and 35,000 adults revealed fascinating results:

  • Between 2006/2007 and 2012/2013, there were more than 800,000 violent crimes attributed to alcohol inebriation. The figures peaked in 2006/07 at one million, or 52% of all violent crime. Alcohol is still the reason behind more than 40% of violent crimes committed.
  • In Scotland, the number of violent crimes performed in 2014/2015 was 186,000. According to the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS), 54% of this figure was linked to alcohol consumption- a significantly larger figure than England. About 17% of these figures relate to incidents that occurred in a pub or club.
  • The Northern Ireland Crime Survey (NICS) did not originally document data on alcohol-related crime in Northern Ireland. It was only in 2012 that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) began recording the details. In 2015/2016, alcohol was identified as the main substance behind 19% of all recorded criminal activities, and 40% for all violent crimes.

Preventing Alcohol-Related Crime

You can help to prevent alcohol-related crime by taking an active role and being more observant in your environment:

  • Report any sale of alcohol to under-age people
  • Report any issues with licensed premises to the authorities
  • Inform community retailers about your concerns

As a parent:

  • Talk to your children about the effects of alcohol abuse. Encourage moderate/responsible drinking.
  • Be sure to know what your children are doing or where they spend time.
  • Be responsible for any alcohol in your home; be sure that none of your children are consuming or taking it on to the street.
  • Lead by example; be responsible for your alcohol consumption and actions.

At school:

  • If you are a school proprietor or teacher, educate your students about the dangers of misusing alcohol.
  • Take responsibility for your actions and speak to the Police School Liaison Officer.

Pub owners and licensees:

  • Be responsible (and comply with the law): don’t sell alcoholic beverages to persons under the age of 18 years. Train your staff to implement Challenge 25. They should request for acceptable ID when in doubt.
  • Train your bar staff about how to deal with people who have drunk too much; only use trained, licensed door staff.
  • Refrain from selling alcohol to anybody who has drunk too much. Withhold their car keys if possible, and call a cab.
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Young Offenders and Alcohol-Related Crime

Young people are usually at a higher risk of committing alcohol-related crimes. Peer pressure is a leading factor in alcohol-related crime in young adults. While many young offenders tend to outgrow this phase, some pick up alcoholism and take it well into their adult years.

Interventions aimed at reducing crime through responsible drinking (that prevents health complications and social issues) prove effective for some offenders. Since most adolescents drink, and because controlled drinking is attainable by younger adults, moderation (not abstinence) is a more realistic goal to encourage.

Alcohol and Violence in College

For many teens that graduate from secondary school, attending a university is a significant milestone to achieve on the path to adulthood. However, with this promising prospect for positive development comes the potential for experiencing negative consequences, one of which is the growing problem of alcohol and violence – particularly sexual assaults- on campus.

University environments are charged with the fervour of newfound freedom. There are raves, parties, concerts and all kinds of similar activities going on. It is therefore not uncommon to see a high number of cases involving alcohol and violence – from fights to assaults- and accidents caused by people under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol-Related Crime Prevention Methods

You can avoid getting involved in alcohol-related crimes by watching your drinking habit. Many offences are caused because of impaired cognition and poor judgements. If you want to make the right decisions, keep a clear head at all times.

Here are some ways to stay safe:

  • Drink moderately and keep a check on your intake
  • Avoid mixing alcoholic beverages with other substances
  • Be careful of drinking pre-opened drinks or accepting drinks from people you hardly know or trust
  • Keep a drinking diary to watch your consumption levels
  • Avoid friends who drink and get into dangerous activities
  • Watch out for your friends and help them if they are intoxicated
  • Never get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol – call a cab instead
  • If you are partying as a group, appoint a teetotaller to drive or go by public transport

The Solution: Treatment and Recovery

Being alcohol-dependent is a gateway to several problems besides crime, from health complications to family issues, work complications and financial difficulties.

If you are currently struggling to quit, you should see a professional counsellor for guidance. The first step towards treatment is a personal willingness to quit and recover fully. Because withdrawal can be uncomfortable, you need a strong resolve to remain on course.

Next, a physician will help you to decide which rehab facility is best for your situation and personal preferences. Do you need an inpatient treatment facility or an outpatient service? Your level of dependence on alcohol and daily schedule will determine that.

Detox is the first step in treatment. A qualified physician will help you undergo withdrawal at this stage. During this period, you will be tapered off alcohol, until you stop completely.

However, you may suffer physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms for anything from a few days to weeks. There are medications a doctor will administer to reduce these effects and make the experience more bearable.Never attempt alcohol detox/withdrawal on your own or you could suffer severe mental health complications and even death.

Following a successful detox, you will be moved into a rehabilitation facility, where an addiction counsellor will help you recover with various therapies ranging from one-on-one sessions to group therapy with other patients. There, you’ll also be taught to build a strong support group that will help you when you leave rehab. It is advisable to receive ongoing treatment too.

Find a Treatment Centre

The type of rehab facility you choose will determine how quickly or fully you recover. Be wary of being swayed by attractive surroundings alone. Find out how reputable and accredited the service is and determine the experience and qualification of its physicians. Do they use proven treatment programmes and therapies? What is the success rate for recovery?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does Alcohol lead to Crime?

In moderate quantities alcohol produces sensations of euphoria and warmness. However, when consumed in excess, it dampens inhibitions and can make you feel invincible. It impairs cognition and judgement, so you are more likely to take action without considering the consequences. Crimes may be committed because of this lack of self-control – or to maintain a certain lifestyle.

What level of Intoxication leads to Committing Alcohol-Related Crime?

There are five stages of intoxication; sobriety, euphoria, excitement, confusion, stupor and coma. The second and third stages represent the most active phases – especially euphoria. This occurs when the levels of alcohol in the body are between 0.03 and 0.12 BAC.

During this stage, you will be animated, talkative and self-confident. Thoughts of daring acts begin to cross your mind and you may feel empowered to act on them. This is how many alcohol-related crimes occur.

Who is at Risk of Committing Alcohol-Related Crimes?

Anybody who drinks beyond the safety limit has the potential to make unsound judgements. This may include driving whilst intoxicated, sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery or even homicide. People witha personal history of violence and psychological disturbance have a higher risk of acting out their violent thoughts. Teens and young adults also face a greater risk.

Will I be Able to Avoid Committing Alcohol-Related Crime?

Yes, you can. It requires understanding your body’s alcohol threshold and drinking responsibly. The less you drink, the more capable you are of making informed decisions.Simple steps to take include keeping a drinking diary, avoiding mixing other substances with alcohol, declining drinks from people you hardly know and not driving when you drink.

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