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Caution urged over underage party alcohol risks

Police and District Health Board urge caution over underage party alcohol risks

With the secondary school ball season under way, and having dealt with several problem parties recently involving underagers, Police and the Canterbury District Health Board are urging party organisers and parents to ensure that parties are safe and do not get out of hand.

Police say last year's season saw a number of callouts to alcohol-related disorder at privately organised parties and do not want to see a repeat this year.

Canterbury Police’s alcohol harm reduction manager, Senior Sergeant Gordon Spite, says Police do not endorse the privately-run, largely commercial events, but encourage organisers to notify Police of upcoming parties so that patrols can monitor the safety of partygoers.

Senior Sergeant Spite says Police are already aware of a number of parties planned for the coming weeks that are potentially of concern.

“We had major issues with disorder and intoxication at several events last year, particularly some that were held on temporary premises in rural locations. At some parties we were dealing with huge numbers of drunk young party-goers. Our concern is that these young people are putting themselves and others at extreme risk in terms of personal safety, drink-driving and road safety,” Senior Sergeant Spite says.

“That's quite a change from the situation that existed before the earthquakes. Up to 2010 most after-parties were held in central city premises and alcohol consumption was relatively limited and not available to minors on the premises. Now we are dealing with young people drinking considerable quantities of alcohol, at remote, isolated rural locations, with high levels of intoxication.”

Senior Sergeant Spite says that under new legislation underagers require express consent from their parent in order to be supplied with alcohol.

“That consent has to amount to more than an underage person turning up to a party with a note purporting to be from a parent. Party organisers are required to know that consent has been given.”

It isn’t just after parties that are concerning to Police, he says.

“We recently attended an 18th birthday party held at unlicensed commercial premises where assaults had occurred and none of the largely intoxicated organisers could tell us who was in charge.

“In these situations young people are vulnerable to becoming both offenders and victims of crime. The potential for tragedy to occur is extremely high.”

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, Dr Alistair Humphrey is equally concerned.

“The parties and events that the Police are concerned about, frequently encourage binge drinking and the results from this are that far too many underage drinkers end up in our Emergency Department,” he says.

“In fact, there are increasing numbers of 14 to 17-year olds presenting to ED with alcohol-related injuries and alcohol poisoning every year and these events contribute to that harm.”

Dr Humphrey says research shows that the earlier people start drinking, the heavier they drink and the more harm they - and others - suffer.

“As parents, we do not want the legacy of poor supervision being sexual assaults of our daughters, or our sons being assaulted or arrested. Teenagers can have a good time, just like adults, without excessive alcohol,” he says.

“Moreover, there is now good evidence that brain development in young people is affected even by moderate amounts of alcohol.”

Both Senior Sergeant Spite and Dr Humphrey warn that parents may unwittingly be exposing often quite young teenagers to very risky situations, and urge parents to become actively aware of the functions their children may be attending.


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