My happy family life as we knew it ended on 10 August 2007, when my husband Garry left our home, followed by our three young daughters to check on the sound of breaking glass and the safety of our young neighbour alone with her baby. Drunken marauding gangs of teenagers plagued our nice residential streets. They had been successfully removed from an adjacent area by an active group of concerned citizens. It turned out to be a sticking plaster to cover a gaping wound. Instead of surgery to deal with the underlying causes of binge and underage drinking and the anti-social behaviour that followed, they just moved the problem along, with devastating results for Garry. They kicked him to death practically on our doorstep.
That is why I am determined to tackle this problem in as many swift and effective ways that I have at my disposal. I have launched a £1m alcohol fund to work in 10 areas in England with the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles. Over two years, local partnerships of police, local authorities, educationalists, health professionals, and, of course, local people, will reduce the negative impact of underage and binge drinking innovative ways through this fund. Please look at the Communities website and encourage an application in your area, if you think you have a strong case.
There is already good practice out there – my recent report ‘Building Safe and Active Communities – strong foundations by local people’ is a map for success using great examples for Community Alcohol Partnerships, action in East Belfast, Derry, Maidstone, and Newquay. But I especially highlighted Sobriety 24/7 and comments from Professor Keith Humphreys, who I hope to work with while he is in the UK. I support the Mayor of London and Commissioner in their drive to make it compulsory and that the perpetrator should pay. As I said in my report “victims of drink related crimes did not have the ‘option’ to be attacked and we should be doing all we can to prevent more crimes of this type”.
I have a promise that our government will put victims at the heart of the reforms of the Criminal Justice System. Battered spouses and children of violent drunken acts, loved ones of road accident victims from inebriated drivers, victims of brutal unprovoked street attacks like Garry and my girls all deserve to be heard. Making Sobriety 24/7 compulsory will send a strong signal that we mean business, and save a lot of personal grief to very many people. And that it means what we say on the tin!