A report by Bob Mackenzie the Offending Prevention and Rehabilitation Programme worker for the registered charitable organisation Orkney Alcohol Counselling and Advisory Service known locally as OACAS.
In December 2008 I retired from the Northern Constabulary after 31 years police service with my final seven years being as the Detective Sergeant / Crime Manager for the Orkney Area Command. Upon retirement I entered into the criminal justice side of third sector working and took up my present position with OACAS at the start of 2014.
OACAS was founded in 1975 as a result of the ever growing problems associated with alcohol throughout the Orkney Isles. As well as myself the organisation has six accredited counsellors including two dedicated youth workers.
Over the years OACAS has expanded its field of expertise to deal with the intricate issues that go along with alcohol and drug abuse.
We are all too aware from media and government reports that the UK has a poor track record towards alcohol abuse with Scotland regrettably being at the top of the pile.The three Scottish Island groups have a historically cultured and entrenched attitude towards drinking that affects all communities whether it is health (mental and physical) financial, general life style or criminal matters. Now the romantic idea of every one having a “wee dram” as portrayed in films such as “Whisky Galore” is far from the present problem of modern drinking trends.
Between April 2014 and March 2016 I saw 61 clients who have ended up in trouble through excessive use of alcohol. 39 of that number had been out drinking in licensed premises prior to the incident although 17 came within the parameters of their behaviour being considered by the Orkney Pubwatch scheme.
At the end of 2014 I began to work with three clients where alcohol was the key factor in their offending. As well as being dealt with through the legal system they also received bans from Orkney Pubwatch.
One of these young men was on his second period of exclusion which commenced only a few weeks after his initial ban had ended. All three had received at least two fixed penalty fines from either the Police or the Procurator Fiscal Service for unacceptable behaviour whilst drunk.
Having accepted the conditions of the fixed penalty no official conviction is recorded but their details are held on the Scottish Intelligence Data Base for a period of six months.
If they offend in a similar fashion after that six month period the police have the option to offer a further fixed penalty and in theory this can go on indefinably as long as the offending falls into the appropriate criteria.
As a result they bypass normal judiciary intervention that is one of the ways open for voluntary referral to the OACAS programme which is recognised by the local Criminal Justice Authority and Sheriff Court.
The one thing that does cause fear and alarm is the possibility of being reported to Pubwatch which wrongly or rightly they are far more scared of than any court appearance.
One of the clients described his exclusion from the licensed premises he frequented as “brutal” as and far more hurtful to him than the monetary fine he was given for his behaviour.
After a meeting with Police Scotland’s Community safety Officer for Orkney and the chair of Orkney Pubwatch I looked at how rehabilitation and education could work alongside the scheme.
On the 7th of October 2015 Orkney Pubwatch and OACAS entered into a formal partnership to offer an Alcohol Awareness Programme to those who come to the attention of the scheme.
When a person is excluded from premises participating in the scheme or issued with a formal warning then they also receive a letter informing them of the alcohol awareness programme and its benefits.
If they decide to take advantage of the programme and on completion a report will be forwarded to the Pubwatch members for their attention. There is no automatic guarantee of a reduction in the period of exclusion but a positive report will be looked on favourably at any review.
The primary aim of the programme is to reduce the risk of further offending behaviour and conflict through a process which includes
Analysis of drinking history, process of intoxication, health and social issues.
Risks and influences of excessive alcohol.
Analysis of offending behaviour.
Effects that offending / behaviour has on victim, family, friends, employment, finances, self.
Consequences of failure to change pattern of drinking and behaviour.
At a recent meeting with scheme members the licensee of the Standing Stones Hotel, Steness mentioned that he has seen a big difference in the behaviour of two young men after completing the programme who each had received a six month period of exclusion.
The Scotch Whisky Action Fund through Foundation Scotland has provided funding for a limited time to allow the programme to progress. This has permitted expansion to local Secondary Schools where 5th and 6th year pupils are made aware of Pubwatch and the consequences of being caught underage drinking and the behaviour expected from them when they become 18 and start to frequent licensed premises.
Orkney College of Further Education is part of the University of the Highlands and Islands and arrangements are in the final stages of having a session on Pubwatch to be included in the curriculum for HNC and HND Hospitality students.It is also proposed that a similar session be part of the course ‘Scottish Certificate for Licence Holders’.
On a wider scale the college has also invited me to talk to the new students at ‘Fresher Week ‘in August. Information leaflets about the scheme and partnership have also been made available for all the students where a majority of them are in their late teens early twenties.
There is a growing culture amongst the younger generation in that they have to become drunk as fast as possible to enjoy themselves which inevitably involves excessive pre-loading prior to going out.To educate those who are regularly involved in this form of drinking the Partnership is embarking on an education campaigned through local media to promote the drawbacks of pre-loading and the benefits of going to licensed premises.
The aim is to show that they can have an enjoyable time in the safe and controlled environment of a well run licensed premises at a cost no greater than what they would each spend on the carry out from the supermarket or off sales. This promotes sensible regulated drinking in a much wider social circle and fulfils the fundamental aims of Pubwatch.
The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland have recently provided updated figures relating to offending through alcohol. 68% of all persons arrested or detained are to some degree under the influence of alcohol with 59% of all violent crime is directly related to alcohol.
I see that with partnerships like this one in Orkney these figure can be reduced not only in Scotland but throughout the UK however the stumbling block is money. Funding from private organisation like the Scotch Whisky Action Fund is very much appreciated and vital to keep programmes such as this alive but the respective governments need to act sooner than later with financial assistance.