Lunchtime debate: Should we ban domestic violence offenders from drinking alcohol?

The Chief Constable of the new Scottish single police force has suggested that men who are convicted of domestic violence while drunk should be banned from drinking alcohol.

I wondered what Lib Dem Voice readers thought of this proposal. In England, Drinking Banning Orders have been around for 7 years but the guidance on their use suggests that they may not be appropriate if an individual is subject to domestic violence proceedings.

I’d be interested to see if anyone has any knowledge of how these orders work in practice, and whether they are effective in reducing offending. Are they too illiberal, or are they liberating for potential victims?

Why are they not issued for domestic violence in England?

And what else needs to be done to tackle domestic violence? How do we change our culture to ensure a greater respect for women? I know that not all victims of domestic violence are women and not all perpetrators are men, but there is a case for looking at the issue in the context of gender as a Scottish Executive report from 2007 outlined:

To say that domestic abuse is gender-based is simply to recognise that the socially attributed norms, roles and expectations of masculinity and femininity which affect intimate relationships and family structures are integral to the use and experience of violence and abuse, whether perpetrated by men or by women. The gendered social environment will affect prevalence, intention and consequences of abuse differentially, for men and women, and requires analysis. But the intersections of class, ethnicity, sexuality et al will also impact on the experience and meaning of domestic abuse: it is neither a unitary nor a simple phenomenon, and our analysis must take account of complexity in a world of enduring gender inequality.

Is Stephen House’s remedy too simplistic? Over to you for your views and observations on the topic.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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7 Comments

  • Alex Baldwin 6th Feb '13 - 1:52pm

    I am confused by this:
    “And what else needs to be done to tackle domestic violence? How do we change our culture to ensure a greater respect for women? I know that not all victims of domestic violence are women and not all perpetrators are men, but there is a case for looking at the issue in the context of gender as a Scottish Executive report from 2007 outlined…”

    You seem to be looking to the report to justify restricting the scope of the discussion about DV to be that committed by men against women, but the quoted section of the report itself says that DV is more complicated than that (i.e. it occurs both ways in straight relationships, and obviously in gay relationships as well). Is your point that each individual sub-type of DV has to be considered independently from the others as something that is likely to have different causes and possible solutions? And that in this case you restricting your analysis to heterosexual relationships where men commit DV against women? Are there studies that show that the various types of DV are sufficiently different that it is reasonable to expect alcohol to only be a factor in this particular instance? I don’t understand, for example, how an aggressive drunk man in a straight relationship vs. one in a gay relationship require different treatment?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Feb '13 - 2:31pm

    I think you have to look at gender inequality being a factor in domestic violence – and within that is the way society regards women. Violence against women is, sadly, a global problem and it’s often perceived, even by women, that a man has the right to abuse them and exert his power over them. Whether alcohol is involved or not, these factors are likely to be at play when women are assaulted or abused by their partners. That perception, that lack of respect to women’s position in society, is something we need to tackle.

    Our culture is quite confused. On one hand, you have laws giving women equality, yet we are bombarded with images of women portrayed in a subservient position, Page 3 of the Sun being the most obvious everyday example.

    Stephen House’s solution deals just with the alcohol side.

    What do you think of the idea of alcohol bans?

  • I’m not too sure. A couple of thoughts though. Firstly, the alcohol bans would only come into force presumably after an offence has been committed – but is this not just barring the stable door after the horse has bolted? In addition, the bans themselves would certainly be no more than a gesture if they are combined with a serious offence, since alcohol isn’t permitted in prisons.

    The ban would also only work if it was combined with some treatment. If someone is regularly assaulting their partner while under the influence, it suggests to me that there’s an underlying addiction which needs to be resolved, and for some this might have to be done gradually and not the ‘cold turkey’ which would result from a straightforward banning order.

    Finally, as Stephen House is well aware, in Scotland at least there is another factor which links directly to an increase in spousal abuse – Old Firm games. Thankfully, because of the demise of Rangers we’ve been spared the shame of these this season, but in a few more years they will be back in the SPL and unless something is done now while the tension is lower the old rivalries and hatreds will simply simmer away. If the figures show an overall reduction this year because of the lack of Old Firm games, perhaps part of the answer might be to ban them too?

  • Richard Dean 6th Feb '13 - 3:28pm

    Alcohol is not actually the cause, is it? Though it probably releases the cause to do its harm.

  • Alex Baldwin 6th Feb '13 - 4:02pm

    If you want to talk about DV as a gender inequality phenomenon then I don’t see how alcohol comes into it? If you want to talk about other potential causes of DV that might include the effects of alcohol on peoples’ behaviour then why restrict it? My point is, that if drinking alcohol is a cause of DV in certain people then we would expect that to occur regardless of the genders involved. If it is a cause of DV only in men then it shouldn’t matter whether their partner is a woman or a man. If you think alcohol is ONLY a factor in man-on-woman DV then it would seem like the root cause is probably the gender effects you are talking about rather than the alcohol itself – in which case the alcohol is making people more sexist? Or more likely lowering their inhibitions to express sexist behaviour. But, to go around in circles, any inhibition-lowering effect would be expected to make a difference in all DV cases.

    In terms of whether I would support it, it would have to go through the three stages of:
    1) Is drinking a causative factor in DV? Is that the case for all DV or just man-on-woman DV?
    2) Will Drinking Banning Orders make any difference? Who gets them (based on answers to 1)?
    3) Is that difference worth the cost in terms of the offenders liberty?

  • Peter Andrews 6th Feb '13 - 8:09pm

    I would think a ban on drinking alcohol would be unenforceable except possibly in retrospect. For example if banned from drinking after an offence whilst drunk and then found to have been drunk when committing a further criminal offence (such as domestic violence offences) then harsher sentences can be given.

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