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ALAC urges Courts to use full range of powers

ALAC urges District Courts to use full range of powers for Sale of Liquor Act breaches

The Alcohol Advisory Council is calling for the District Courts to use the full range of powers and sanctions available to them under the Sale of Liquor Act.

“Often quite serious breaches of the SOL Act have been met with a slap on the wrist, fines or discharges without conviction,” ALAC chief executive officer Dr Mike MacAvoy told the 33rd Australasian Liquor Licensing Authorities Conference in Wellington today.

Dr MacAvoy said such action only served to hamper the ability of the Liquor Licensing Authority to properly administer the Act.

‘I note that Judge Unwin, the Chair of the Authority, believes it will take some time before his peers in the District Court treat these matters as seriously as other anti-social offending – I hope he might be proved wrong in this instance.

“Alcohol-related harm is a burden on our society, which we can no longer tolerate. To do this requires a change in attitude and behaviour towards breaches of the Act.

“Why is it that we don't treat alcohol-related behaviour, or behaviour by those who supply and serve alcohol seriously? The answer lies partly in our history and the culture of drinking which has built up over the years. All of us are products of that culture and we still retain many of the attitudes surrounding drinking that may have been acceptable in the past but in a modern era are just unacceptable.”

While the Sale of Liquor Act provides the legislative framework for the sale of alcoholic beverages, it should never be seen as the total framework, Dr MacAvoy said.

“For too long the Sale of Liquor Act, the Liquor Licensing Authority, the District Licensing Agencies and to a lesser extent in terms of their capacity to impact on the licensing process and monitoring, the public health sector, have been charged with near total responsibility for ensuring alcohol is served in a responsible and safe manner.

“The responsibility lies not only with these groups but also with the licence holder, his or her staff, the police, and the community the licensee serves.

“One might take this further to include the responsibility of drinkers themselves to ensure alcohol is managed in a safe manner.”

Associate Minister of Health responsible for alcohol Hon Damien O’Connor welcomed the debate over licensing issues being raised by the conference.

“If we are serious about reducing alcohol-related harm in this country changes in attitudes and behaviour are an essential component in supporting the judiciary and those charged with administering and enforcing the provisions of the Sale of Liquor Act,” he said.


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