3. Identifying legislative gaps around young people and alcohol
This section of the report examines existing evidence around policing young people and alcohol related incidents. Existing police powers in respect of alcohol and young people fall under two pieces of legislation. Under sections 201-203 of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973, local authorities in Scotland can prohibit the consumption of alcohol in designated public places, which means that police officers can confiscate alcohol from anyone (of any age) seen to breaching the specific conditions of the byelaws. Furthermore, under Section 61 of the Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Act 1997, police officers have a power of seizure with regards to alcohol (as well as tobacco products and other substances such as gas or butane). This allows officers to ask children and young people to hand over any alcohol where it is known or suspected that they are in possession of it in a public place. The 1997 Act also gives police officers the power to confiscate alcohol from those aged 18 or over who are suspected of supplying it to minors. However, the police have no specific legislative power to search a young person for alcohol, even if officers suspect them of concealing it and they have refused to surrender the alcohol. The only exception to this is at designated sporting events where the police have a search power in accordance with Section 21 of the Criminal Law (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 1995, which enables officers to search any person suspected of committing or attempting to commit an offence (which would include possessing alcohol within the relevant area of a sporting venue).
Prior to the abolition of consensual search in May 2017, it was common for officers to use this type of search to identify and remove alcohol from those aged under 18. The expectation amongst members of the IAGSS was that seizure would be increasingly used to deal with alcohol related incidents following the introduction of the CoP. However, many policing representatives were concerned that this would be insufficient to deal with alcohol related problems involving children and young people, especially in certain parts of the West of Scotland where this has historically been a significant problem leading to violence and disorder. Of particular concern was the possibility that there may be an increase in the use of arrests to deal with young people who refused to hand over their alcohol to officers.
During the twelve month review period, seizures predominantly involved the confiscation of alcohol (95%), with far fewer encounters involving the confiscation of tobacco products (4%) or other substances, such as gas or butane (2%). Prior to the introduction of the CoP, the legislative basis for seizure of items was not routinely recorded. Looking at the data for the twelve months following the CoP, only 25% were conducted under Section 61(1) of the Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Act 1997 which enables officers to confiscate alcohol from young people under the age of 18. A further 2% of seizures were conducted under Section 61(2) of the 1997 Act, which enables officers to confiscate alcohol from those aged 18 or over who are suspected of supplying minors with alcohol. However, the majority (67%) of seizures were conducted using Local Authority alcohol byelaws. This section will focus only on those seizures that involved the recovery of alcohol.
3.2 Evidence about the problem of young people and alcohol
Before examining the use of alcohol seizures in Scotland pre- and post-introduction of the CoP, it is important to consider whether there are any possible underlying reasons why there might have been a change in police practice. For example, if alcohol seizures in Scotland have increased or decreased significantly, this may be due to an underlying increase or decrease in problems caused by young people's drinking behaviour. For this reason, some contextual data was collected about problematic alcohol use amongst young people before and after the implementation of the CoP. It is important to note that the information presented here cannot be used to provide evidence of any causal association between these trends and police use of seizures; however, it provides valuable context within which to consider the findings of the review.
Alcohol consumption amongst young people has been monitored by the Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS) since 1990. The survey, which is completed in Scottish schools amongst young people aged 13 and 15, shows that the proportion of pupils who report ever having an alcoholic drink has been steadily decreasing since 2004 (Scottish Government 2016). Findings from the most recent survey, conducted in 2015, show that prevalence of alcohol consumption was at its lowest level since the survey began. The percentage of teenagers who reported drinking in the last week fell substantially between 2010 and 2013, and then remained stable in 2015. Overall, SALSUS suggests that problematic drinking amongst young people in Scotland has been on a long-term decline in Scotland. However, there are no SALSUS data available for the periods immediately before and after the introduction of the CoP.
Two sources of additional information were examined to identify whether there were indications that patterns of problematic alcohol consumption may have changed since the implementation of the CoP. These were hospital admissions data and police incident data. Where possible, data were analysed for young people aged under 18 and for people of all ages, in order to ascertain whether any trends noted for young people were typical of the population as a whole. Both data sources have limitations and caution must be used when interpreting the findings (as explained below); however, they were the only relevant sources available for this twelve month review period.
3.2.1 Alcohol-related hospital admissions for young people
Data on hospital admissions as a result of excessive alcohol consumption were provided by Information Services Division (ISD), which is part of NHS National Services Scotland. These data include general acute inpatient and day case stays for people with an alcohol-related diagnosis across the whole of Scotland, but excludes people presenting to Accident and Emergency who were not admitted as an alcohol-related inpatient or day case. Data were provided for the same two year period as the stop and search data (i.e. June 2016 to May 2018), although the data from April 2017 to May 2018 were only 99% complete at the time of data collection as not all hospital admissions data had been submitted to ISD. Therefore caution is needed when drawing inference from these data as they could increase slightly when the final figures are complete.
Data were provided for young people aged under 18 and for people of all ages (reported below). Given the nature of these data, it might reasonably be concluded that they would have represented serious incidents involving young people's use of alcohol and were, therefore, incidents that could (in certain circumstances) have drawn the young person to the attention of the police.
In total, there were 531 alcohol-related hospital admissions for young people recorded in the twelve months after the introduction of the CoP, which was down from 571 recorded in the previous year. This represents a 7% reduction in such cases, although this was not statistically significant. Bearing in mind that the figure for the post-CoP period may be an underestimate of the actual number of incidents, it is not possible to identify any substantial change in general acute inpatient and day case stays for young people with an alcohol-related diagnosis.
Figure 3.1 shows the number of cases recorded month by month for the pre- and post-implementation periods. There were some slight differences between equivalent months but, due to the small numbers in each month, none of these differences were was statistically significant. Moreover, both years showed similar patterns in terms of seasonal variation (especially around the summer and winter months).
Figure 3.1: Alcohol-related hospital stays for young people aged under 18 in Scotland
3.2.2 Alcohol-related hospital admissions for all ages
The analysis described in section 3.2.1 was repeated for people of all ages (note that the same qualifications regarding the data apply). Overall, the number of alcohol-related admissions declined by 2% in the twelve months following the introduction of the CoP. Although this figure is lower than the figure of 7% for young people, it was statistically significant. Moreover, the proportion of all hospital stays that was accounted for by young people remained totally stable at just over 1%. The monthly trends show a much clearer seasonal pattern (mainly due to the much larger numbers), with higher numbers in the spring and summer months and lower in the winter months, as shown in Figure 3.2.
For most months, there were no significant differences in the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions between the two periods. Alcohol admissions were significantly higher in the post-CoP period in June, and significantly lower in December and January; however, Figure 3.2 shows no systematic difference. These data suggest that the small reduction in alcohol-related hospital admissions amongst young people was broadly in line with (or only slightly greater than) the general trend for the population as a whole.
Figure 3.2: Alcohol-related hospital stays for people of all ages in Scotland
3.2.3 Police recorded incidents involving alcohol and young people
Data were provided by Police Scotland from STORM Unity, the command and control system used for recording incidents reported to the police. On this system, recorded incidents involving alcohol can be identified using a qualifier code, thus providing useful information about the level of policing demand that is driven by alcohol related issues. A further qualifier code can be used to identify whether one or more young person under the age of 18 was involved in the incident. In combination, these two codes were used to identify the number of police recorded incidents involving alcohol and young people.
Before presenting the results of the analysis, there are two important qualifications that must be borne in mind when using these data. First, the recording of the alcohol qualifier code is not mandatory and it is not always possible at the time of the initial call for the police to be certain that the incident involves alcohol. Therefore, these data are treated by Police Scotland as management information and are only indicative of the number of policing incidents that are alcohol related. Second, data were not available for the full CoP Review period for all 13 Police Scotland divisions. Data for the North East Division were not available on STORM Unity until March 2017 and so there is partial missing information for the pre-CoP period. Similarly, data for the Highlands & Islands Division did not become available on STORM Unity until February 2018 so there is no information for the pre-CoP period and only partial information for the post-CoP period. For this reason, the data for North East and Highlands & Islands Divisions are not included in the analysis in this section of the report. In addition, Tayside Division only started using Storm Unity in mid-June 2016, so there is some partial missing information; however, this was considered minimal enough to include Tayside in the analysis.
During the twelve months prior to the CoP, there were 2,329 alcohol-related incidents involving young people recorded across 11 Divisions. In the twelve months following the introduction of the CoP this fell to 2,206 (a reduction of 123). This represents a 5% fall in alcohol-related incidents recorded by the police, although this was not statistically significant. The data were not provided on a month by month basis, so it is not possible to examine similarity in seasonal trends; however, they were provided by Division. Figure 3.3 shows that the highest number of alcohol-related incidents involving young people was recorded in Greater Glasgow. Ayrshire and Lanarkshire also had a high number of incidents, although other West Divisions (such as Renfrewshire & Inverclyde, and Argyll & West Dunbartonshire) were much lower, and Dumfries & Galloway was by far the smallest. Even so, Divisions in the West Command Area accounted for around two-thirds of all police recorded incidents of alcohol-related problems involving young people.
Figure 3.3: Number of alcohol-related incidents involving young people, pre- and post-implementation of the CoP
Over the review period, two Divisions recorded a significant fall in alcohol-related incidents involving young people: Fife and Renfrewshire & Inverclyde both fell by 27%. A further two Divisions recorded a significant rise in alcohol-related youth incidents: Argyll & West Dunbartonshire rose by 56% and Dumfries & Galloway rose by 93%; however, these reflected very small numbers in absolute terms (as shown in Figure 3.3). Looking at all the other Divisions, there was no significant change in numbers following the introduction of the CoP.
3.2.4 Police recorded incidents involving alcohol and people of all ages
Looking at the same data from the STORM Unity System without the youth qualifier, a total of 31,403 alcohol-related incidents were recorded in twelve months following the introduction of the CoP across the 11 Police Scotland Divisions. This compares to 33,177 in the equivalent period of the previous year, representing a decrease in alcohol-related incidents of 5% - identical to that for young people, although it was statistically significant due to the much larger numbers. As a relative share of all recorded incidents involving alcohol, the percentage that involved a young person was exactly 7% over both time periods. This is lower than expected given the proportion of those aged under 18 in the general population (19%); although it is broadly in line with the proportion of the population aged 12 to 17 (6%) who might be considered the most 'problematic' group with regards to drinking alcohol.
Similar to the pattern for young people, there was considerable variation between Divisions in the overall number of alcohol related incidents. Figure 3.4 shows that there were around 10 times more alcohol-related incidents recorded in Greater Glasgow than in Dumfries & Galloway during both time periods. However, there was a high degree of consistency within Divisions in terms of the number of alcohol-related incidents recorded and in the relative ordering of Divisions at each time period. Interestingly, the ordering of Divisions (in the 12 months following the CoP) was not quite the same for the youth sub-sample as for the total dataset. Divisions in the West of Scotland featured more prominently for young people than they did for the population as a whole.
Two Divisions had a small (but non-significant) increase in the number of alcohol-related incidents between the pre-CoP and the post-CoP periods: Argyll & West Dunbartonshire Division increased by 5% and Edinburgh Division increased by 4%. A further three Divisions (Forth Valley, Ayrshire and Dumfries & Galloway) had a small (but non-significant) reduction in alcohol-related incidents. The remaining six Divisions all had a significant reduction in recorded alcohol-related incidents. This included Fife, which had a 16% reduction in alcohol-related incidents, and Lanarkshire, which had a 10% reduction. Greater Glasgow had a smaller, but still significant, 6% reduction in recorded alcohol-related incidents.
Figure 3.4: Total number of alcohol-related incidents recorded by Police Scotland, pre- and post-implementation of the CoP
Police Scotland was able to provide data for the same 11 Divisions on the number of incidents involving drinking alcohol in a public place that were recorded by the Contact, Command and Control Division. These incidents included a mixture of cases reported by members of the public and those detected through police proactivity. There were far fewer public drinking incidents compared to alcohol-related incidents in general; however, there was a greater proportionate decline in the former during the twelve months following the introduction of the CoP.
Overall, the number of public drinking incidents fell from 2,772 in the pre-CoP period to 1,903 in the post-CoP period, a significant reduction of 31%. Like alcohol-related incidents generally, there was a large degree of variation across Divisions in recorded incidents of public drinking. For example, during the pre-CoP period, there were 1,098 incidents recorded in Greater Glasgow compared with only 21 in Dumfries & Galloway. In terms of change over time, the number of public drinking incidents declined in all but two Divisions (Edinburgh and Dumfries & Galloway had a small, but non-significant, increase). Four Divisions (Forth Valley, Lothians & Scottish Borders, Fife and Argyll & West Dunbartonshire) had a small, but non-significant, decrease; and the remaining five Divisions had a significant decrease in recorded drinking in public incidents. Certain Divisions in the West showed the largest reduction in public drinking. For example, there were larger than average reductions in Renfrewshire & Inverclyde (-44%), Greater Glasgow (-43%) and Lanarkshire (-34%).
Data were also provided for the 11 Divisions on the number of public drinking incidents that were classified as 'detected'. This includes incidents where a Fixed Penalty Notice was issued for drinking in a public place under a local government byelaw or alcohol-related incidents in which a crime was recorded and a suspect was identified. There were 11,988 incidents detected in the pre-CoP period compared with 5,850 in the post-CoP period. Again, this represented a large and significant 51% fall in the number of detected public drinking incidents in the period following the introduction of the CoP. The largest proportionate reduction was in Tayside (-83%), although this represented a very small number of incidents overall. The largest absolute reduction was in Greater Glasgow (-65%), which represented around 60% of all drinking in public detections during the pre-CoP period but only 43% in the post-CoP period. There were also large and significant reductions in public drinking detections in Argyll & West Dunbartonshire (-44%), Lanarkshire (-35%), Renfrewshire & Inverclyde (-26%) and Ayrshire (-15%). However, there was no significant change in any of the other Divisions.
3.2.5 Underlying behavioural explanation for a change in alcohol seizures?
Looking at these contextual data altogether, there is evidence of a very small (although non-statistically significant) decline in alcohol-related problems involving people under the age of 18, both in terms of hospital admissions and incidents recorded by the police, in the twelve month period following the introduction of the CoP. These trends appeared to be broadly in line with the trends for the population as a whole, and followed similar seasonal patterns, which suggests that there was no unusual shift in the behaviours of young people over this period. So, based on these data, there does not appear to be any underlying behavioural explanation for a change in the police use of alcohol seizures amongst young people.
At the level of police Divisions, the picture was more mixed in relation to police recorded alcohol-related incidents. Two areas showed a significant increase in incidents, while two showed a significant decrease, but the majority saw no significant change between periods. Unfortunately, the number of hospital admissions was too small to release the data at sub-national level, so it is unclear whether the same mixed picture is present. Therefore, it is difficult to say with any certainty whether there are underlying changes at a sub-Divisional level that may have influenced changing practice in relation to police use of seizure. In addition, Police Scotland was unable provide data on arrests of young people, which could have highlighted whether this had increased in the wake of the CoP as a result of the loss of consensual search. The relationship between the trends presented in this section and the Divisional use of seizures will be examined in more detail below.
Police Scotland did highlight very large reductions in public drinking incidents and detected public drinking incidents over the period; however, it was unable to provide the data by age category, so it is impossible to tell if there was any significant change in young people's involvement in these activities. Moreover, it is possible that these large changes may have occurred as a result of changes in policing practice rather than behavioural change.
3.3 Change in the use of seizure by age
3.3.1 Overall change by age
In the twelve months following the introduction of the CoP, there were 2,401 alcohol seizures in Scotland. This represents a 63% decrease from the previous year, during which there were 6,559 alcohol seizures. Table 3.1 shows that police seizures were not used exclusively for young people. In fact, in the twelve months before the introduction of the CoP, only a quarter (26%) of all seizures involved people under the age of 18. Indeed, more than half of all alcohol confiscations involved people aged 25 or over. During the twelve months following the introduction of the CoP, there was a large reduction in the number of seizures amongst all age groups; however, the scale of the reduction was not equal across age groups. Seizures involving young people under the age of 18 fell by 49%; however, there were far greater percentage reductions in the number of seizures for people in all other age groups (ranging from 66% to 81%). As a result, in the year following implementation of the CoP, the relative share of all seizures for young people aged under 18 increased to more than a third, making it 10% higher than the previous year, while the relative share of all other groups declined.
Table 3.1: Number of alcohol seizures pre and post-implementation of the CoP by age band
|June 2016 to May 2017||June 2017 to May 2018||% Change in N||Difference in % share|
|N||% share||N||% share|
|60 or over||161||3%||31||1%||-81%||-2%|
Note: Column percentages may not total 100% due to rounding.
Information on the powers used to seize alcohol was not collected in the pre-CoP period; however, it was possible to examine this after the introduction of the CoP. The majority (68%) of those aged under 18 were subject to Section 61(1) confiscation powers, with only 25% being subject to Local Authority byelaws that prohibit drinking in specified areas. Amongst those aged 18 or over, 96% had alcohol confiscated under Local Authority byelaws, while the remaining 4% had alcohol removed under Section 61(2) on suspicion of supplying alcohol to minors.
The raw number of searches by age band does not take into account differences in population size; therefore, it is important to examine rate of seizure per capita to determine who is most likely to experience this tactic. Table 3.2 shows the rate of seizure per 10,000 population for each of the five age bands. These figures show how much greater the use of seizure was for people under the age of 18 compared to all other age groups. Young people were at least twice as likely to have alcohol confiscated from them than people in the next nearest age band in the year prior to the introduction of the CoP, and this increased to more than three times after the CoP was implemented. Even though the rate of alcohol seizure amongst young people halved in the year following the implementation of the CoP, it was a far lower percentage decline than for all other age bands.
Table 3.2: Rate per capita of alcohol seizures pre and post-implementation of the CoP by age band
|Age group||June 2016 to May 2017 Rate per 10,000||June 2017 to May 2018 Rate per 10,000||% change in Rate|
|60 or over||1.5||0.3||-80%|
Note: Rates per capita are based on mid-year population estimates for 2016 (pre-CoP) and 2017 (post-CoP).
So how does the changing age profile of those who were subject to alcohol seizures fit with the data presented in sections 3.2.2 and 3.2.3 on the overall trend in alcohol-related policing demand? The police data indicated that there was a modest but significant decrease in all alcohol-related incidents of around 5%. The percentage decline in alcohol related-incidents involving young people was also around 5%; however, this was not found to be statistically significant. Therefore, the extent of the reduction in alcohol related seizures would appear to be far greater than the overall fall in policing demand; and the extent of the reduction in seizures amongst those aged under 18 appears to be disproportionately small given that the overall change in incidents involving people of this age group was no different to that for older people.
3.3.2 Monthly change by age
To get the full picture, it is important to examine the data in more detail, including change in the use of seizures over time for people of different ages and by different areas of geography. Figure 3.5 shows the percentage change in alcohol seizures within each age band on a month by month basis. This reveals a significant decline in the use of seizures for all age groups during the year prior to the introduction of the CoP; however, the decline for those aged under 18 was less steep than that for other age groups and there was a sharp spike in use during April 2017 which was not evident for other age groups. On further investigation, this spike reflects a large increase in the use of seizures within several Divisions in the West Command Area, including Greater Glasgow, North and South Lanarkshire, North Ayrshire and East Renfrewshire (as confirmed in Figure 3.6). Data from the Met Office for that period indicates that it was a warm, sunny April with lower than average rainfall across the UK. These conditions are often associated with an increase in public drinking by young people, especially when they coincide with a public holiday (such as Easter), which may well explain this deviation from the downward trend. Evidence for such a seasonal trend is supported by the fact that there was a similar, albeit smaller, spike in seizures amongst those aged under 18 in April 2018.
Following the introduction of the CoP in May 2017, the number of alcohol seizures continued to decline for all age groups, but the decline was steepest for those under the age of 18. Indeed by December 2017, the scale of the decline in alcohol seizures was so large that it had diminished to tiny numbers within all five age bands, and was only slightly higher amongst the under 18s than the other four age bands. Interestingly, however, the rate of alcohol seizures did start to increase again in early 2018, most especially amongst young people, over and above the possible Easter seasonal effect.
Figure 3.5: Percentage change in alcohol seizures, June 2016 to May 2018
Unfortunately, it was not possible to analyse change in the monthly number of alcohol seizures involving young people by Division due to the small numbers. However, when they were clustered into Command Areas, Figure 3.6 clearly shows that the striking decline in alcohol seizures amongst young people was almost entirely due to a change in policing activity in the West of Scotland. In fact, there was an astonishing 97% reduction in the use of seizures in the Greater Glasgow Division, from 495 in June 2016 to only 17 in January 2018, before it started to increase again.
The data presented here suggests that the trend in alcohol seizures for young people in the West Command Area – especially Greater Glasgow – reduced dramatically following the introduction of the CoP. This trend in seizures bears little or no relation to the data presented in section 3.2.3 which showed that alcohol-related incidents involving young people were highest in the West of Scotland, especially in Greater Glasgow, Ayrshire and Lanarkshire. Moreover, in the twelve month period following the introduction of the CoP, only one West Division recorded a significant fall in alcohol-related incidents involving young people (Renfrewshire & Inverclyde, which already had relatively low numbers compared to other Divisions). In all the other Divisions in the West Command Area – including Greater Glasgow - there was either no significant change or an increase in alcohol-related problems involving young people.
The dramatic reduction in alcohol seizures amongst people under the age of 18 contrasts sharply with this overarching picture of high and consistent alcohol-related demand for policing in the West of Scotland. So, either the findings here on the decline in seizures of alcohol amongst young people in the West of Scotland – especially Greater Glasgow - is indicative of a real and sustained decline in the use of the tactic for this age group that cannot be explained by seasonal trends or it reflects a reduction in the recording of seizure activity.
Figure 3.6: Change in the number of alcohol seizures amongst people aged under 18, by Command Area
3.4 Change in the recovery of alcohol through statutory search
Consensual searches were commonly used by police officers in the past to remove alcohol from individuals; however, following the controversy around the use of consensual searches (which had no statutory power) and criticism by HMICS (2015), the number of consensual searches declined significantly. During the twelve months from June 2016 to May 2017 (prior to the introduction of the CoP) there were only 707 consensual searches, of which only 51 (7%) resulted in the recovery of alcohol. During the same period, there were 36,627 statutory searches of which only 205 (0.6%) involved the recovery of alcohol.
Following implementation of the CoP in May 2017 consensual searches were abolished; however, there is no indication of a change in the efficacy of statutory searches to recover alcohol. Of the 29,773 searches conducted in the year following the CoP, only 138 (0.5%) resulted in the recovery of alcohol. These findings are not conclusive in terms of identifying whether a statutory power to search for alcohol is required in Scotland; however, there is certainly no indication that statutory searching is being used as a mechanism to indirectly search for alcohol.
3.6 Summary of section 3
The police have no legislative power to search a young person for alcohol in a public place. Officers can ask children and young people to hand over alcohol where it is known or suspected that they are in possession of it in a public place; however, if they refuse to do so the only legal option available to an officer is to use the power of arrest, which is not usually considered in the young person's best interests. With the abolition of consensual searches, it was expected that there would be an increase in seizures to deal with alcohol related incidents. This section of the report explored the emerging trends. There was also some concern that there may be an increase in the use of arrests to deal with young people who refused to hand over alcohol. It was not possible to determine if this was the case.
Background data was examined to see if there had been any alcohol-related behavioural changes amongst young people that might explain emergent trends in the use of alcohol seizures by Police Scotland. The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey shows a long-term reduction in teenage drinking since 2004. Looking just at the period before and after the introduction of the CoP, alcohol-related hospital admissions for young people fell by 7% and police recorded alcohol-related incidents involving young people fell by 5%. These small proportionate reductions in public service demand were not statistically significant and both were in line with wider population trends. Therefore, there did not appear to be any underlying behavioural explanation for a dramatic change in the police use of alcohol seizures amongst young people. Police Scotland also reported a 31% reduction in the number of public drinking incidents and a 51% fall in the number of detected public drinking incidents; however, these data could not be broken down by age. There was considerable variation by Division, with most alcohol-related incidents involving young people taking place in the West, especially compared to the wider population.
These apparently small behavioural changes contrasted sharply with the 49% reduction in police use of alcohol seizures from young people during the twelve months after the introduction of the CoP. There were even greater reductions in alcohol seizures amongst older age groups, even though the contextual data suggested that trends in alcohol related problems amongst young people were in line with the wider population. Taking population size into account, young people were at least twice as likely to have alcohol confiscated from them than people in the next nearest age band prior to the introduction of the CoP, but this increased to three times more likely in the twelve months afterwards. Around two thirds of alcohol seizures amongst young people involved use of Section 61 confiscation powers; whereas, almost all of the older people had alcohol confiscated under Local Authority alcohol byelaws.
Looking at the change in alcohol seizures on a monthly basis, there was a significant decline for all age groups during the year prior to the introduction of the CoP; however, the decline for those aged under 18 was less steep than that for other age groups. A sharp spike in seizures during April 2017 in several Divisions in the West Command Area appeared to be due to a particularly warm spell of weather coinciding with the Easter holidays, which shows how affected such data can be due to seasonality. Following the introduction of the CoP, the number of alcohol seizures continued to decline for all age groups, but the decline was steepest for those under the age of 18. This striking post-CoP decline in alcohol seizures amongst young people was almost entirely due to a change in policing activity in the West of Scotland. In particular, there was an astonishing 97% reduction in the use of seizures in the Greater Glasgow Division, which cannot be explained by behavioural change or seasonal trends. Possible explanations for these changes include a real and sustained decline in the seizure of alcohol from young people in Greater Glasgow (which seems unlikely) or a change in the recording of such seizure activity.
Despite the abolition of consensual searches, there was no indication of a change in the efficacy of statutory searches to recover alcohol (which remained low). The findings in this report are not conclusive in terms of identifying whether a statutory power to search for alcohol is required in Scotland; however, there is certainly no indication that statutory searching is being used as a mechanism to indirectly search for alcohol.
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