Editorial: Law has teeth if needed

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2013

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OPINION: The impact of new liquor laws in South Canterbury will come down to interpretation.

A sensible and measured approach will see little change, and a gung-ho one will see fur fly, for better or worse.

Nationally, from yesterday, bars are not allowed to stay open past 4am. Closing time is already 3am here now.

Bars have to be responsible hosts, and not have free booze or competitions linked to booze purchases. Local bars aren't known for such practices.

New rules at supermarkets also won't make much difference here.

But there are two areas which could have an impact, and they are having the express consent to supply alcohol to minors and the definition of intoxication.

Timaru police have said they will adopt a sensible approach to the former, and one would imagine they also will with the latter.

But it will depend on the circumstances.

This year Timaru has had its share of parties which have got out of hand with violence and property damage the result.

In some cases this has not been the fault of the hosts - blame instead social media and gatecrashers - but sometimes it has been the carefree attitude of the organiser. The police now have another tool with which to hold them accountable, and to drive home the message about social responsibility.

The formal definition of intoxication is an interesting one.

You're intoxicated in the eyes of the law if you display two of the following - affected appearance, impaired behaviour, impaired co-ordination and impaired speech.

Bars can be fined up to $10,000 if such a person is found on the premises, and given the subjective nature of such a definition police could have a field day.

But again, they are likely to take a measured approach, unless a bar pushes the envelope.

The steps are aimed to change our drinking culture. On their own these won't, but get seriously out of step with them and watch out.

Another thing: Talking of added teeth, a fine of up to $400 for litterbugs is welcomed. Not for dropping a piece of paper, although we don't want that either, but for those people who dump trailer loads of rubbish at riverbeds and the like.

They might object to paying tip charges, but polluting the countryside isn't on. The prospect of a sizeable fine will hopefully deter them.

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- The Timaru Herald

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