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Bay closure: clubs must heed social responsibility

Stern words: Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Alcohol-related crime is a popular term used in policing circles as well as media in reports, but is not based on any legal definition. Instead it is used to describe two main categories, namely alcohol-defined offences — for example, drunkenness offences or drink-driving — and offences such as assaults, criminal damage and public-order offences in which the consumption of alcohol is thought to have played a role.

The Institute of Alcohol Studies estimates that in a community of 100,000 people, 1,000 will be a victim of alcohol-related violent crime. It is not hard, therefore, to calculate the maths for Bermuda and the concern we should have in this regard.

As a police officer of 27 years, I have seen alcohol as a constant factor within antisocial behaviour, serious violence and offences of domestic abuse, not least recognising the significant impact it can have on families when a loved one’s alcohol dependency has a destructive effect on their life.

Last week, I instructed the temporary closure of a licensed premises, Bailey’s Bay Cricket Club, where there had been serious violence. This involved violence between patrons and the throwing of bottles towards my officers who attended. Arrests were made and investigations will take place, but the heart of these problems needs to be addressed.

I fully recognise the needs of licensees to attract patrons to their premises, not least because an empty bar can soon lead to financial collapse. However, this cannot be at the expense of public safety and the key issue of “social responsibility”.

Communities need their bars and clubs, as they are a focal point for engagement, the chance to relax away from work, to watch sporting events and to spend time with family and friends. However, I am aware many families are reluctant to visit certain establishments because of the types of patrons that attend and the behaviour it seems they are allowed to get away with through excessive drinking and, in some cases, the open use of drugs.

We see the introduction of roadside sobriety testing this week. A necessary and fundamental step towards reducing death and serious injury on our roads. However, let me be clear that the Bermuda Police Service’s intentions are not solely to catch those who choose to drink and drive. Our primary intention is to generate awareness and cultural change for people to think that it is both wrong and irresponsible to get in or on a motor vehicle when impaired through alcohol or drugs — not least to have conscience to the devastation that can be caused to another (or self) through loss of life and families being destroyed.

I heard a comment the other day that a licensed premises was concerned about this new legislation because potentially their profits may fall. This for me sums up some of the cultural attitudes we have to resolve.

I enjoy a drink. I enjoy going to a bar with my family and friends. However, I want to feel safe and welcomed. I am sure this is what we all want and the BPS are committed to work in partnership with licensees to give them every assistance to enable their businesses to run effectively and profitably. What I seek in return is their commitment to social responsibility so we can make sure we all can enjoy our “local pub”.

If this is not forthcoming, then some licensed premises will close. Permanently.

Stephen Corbishley is the Commissioner of Police