Booze laws to sober you up

Last updated 05:00 18/12/2013

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Bar owners face the introduction of tough new booze laws today that could cost them a $10,000 fine if patrons are caught slurring their words or spilling drinks.

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act sets new instant fines for offences including liquor ban violations and fake IDs.

Adults can be fined up to $2000 for giving alcohol to minors who are not their own children.

Christchurch Police Alcohol Prevention leader Senior Sergeant Gordon Spite said while it had always been illegal to serve drunks, and carried the penalty of a $10,000 fine, the new legislation had formalised what "intoxicated" meant for the first time.

"It recognises the huge impact alcohol has on crime," he said. "It's huge."

Formal guidelines for police and hospitality staff include "intoxication indicators" - difficulty speaking, aggressive behaviour and the inability to stand straight.

Patrons failing two of the tests would be considered intoxicated.

"There's probably a whole lot of stuff in there the industry is nervous about," Spite said. "But we're here to work with them. We won't be going out there and waving a big stick."

Under the new three-strikes system, a licence holder who racked up any three offences in three years would have their liquor licence stripped for five years.

Spite said well-run establishments had little to fear.

Police can also hand out instant fines.

People violating liquor bans could be slapped with a $250 on-the-spot fine.

An intoxicated manager or employee at a licensed premises would be fined $500.

A minor using a fake ID would get a $250 fine and serving a minor at a licensed premises would cost the minor $250 and the manager $250.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey said the new law would reduce harm caused by alcohol.

"Heavy alcohol use in adolescents has far more damaging effects than on adults because their developing brains don't have the same physical protection around their brain cells.

"As adults it's our job to keep children safe and act as good role models, and I am pleased the new law takes supplying those under age seriously."

South Island medical officers of health had agreed to oppose all applications to supply alcohol for consumption at events focused on children, including school fairs and prizegivings.

The act introduces new licensing fees, which could cost some operators up to four times as much.

The Cassels family owns a string of bars and restaurants in Christchurch. Zak Cassels said the new costs to licence holders were "unfortunate".

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"Our society has problems with alcohol without a doubt, but I don't think they're solved by liquor laws."

Justice Minister Judith Collins said the laws struck a "sensible balance" between curbing the harm caused by alcohol abuse without penalising responsible drinkers.

"The reforms place more responsibility on those who may provide alcohol to young people and give parents more control," she said.

"The changes also require the alcohol industry to play their part."

- Fairfax Media


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