HC Deb 15 May 1985 vol 79 cc319-20
42. Mr. Hirst

asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland how many people in Scotland were charged with the offence of being drunk and incapable in the most recent 12-month period for which figures are available.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. Peter Fraser)

Provisional figures for 1984—the most recent 12-month period for which figures are available—reveal that 6,581 persons were proceeded against for the offence of being drunk and incapable.

Mr. Hirst

I am grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for his reply. Does he agree that it would be more appropriate to treat a drunk in a detoxification centre than in a police court? If so, will he place on record the fact that he accepts that the DHSS resettlement unit at Bishopbriggs is fulfilling a vital role in treating chronic drunks in the west of Scotland?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I can make no particular comment on the unit at Bishopbriggs, although I know that my hon. Friend has taken a special interest in its work. However, there has been a great improvement in Grampian region and in Aberdeen city, where we have had a dreadful problem of people being drunk and incapable. They are now being referred to the detoxification centre, which is very often a much more appropriate way of dealing with the problem.

Mr. Maxton

Will the Solicitor-General for Scotland give us the figures for those in the west of Scotland who, instead of being charged with being drunk and disorderly and other drunkenness offences, have been taken to a detoxification unit? If the answer is none, when are the Government going to fulfill the pledge to decriminalise drunkenness that they made five years ago in the criminal justice legislation?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I commend the hon. Gentleman for repeating the points that he made in a recent debate during proceedings on the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill. Strictly speaking, this is not a matter for me, but I have already made it clear that, generally speaking, if we can take people who are simply drunk and incapable out of the courts and use detoxification instead, that is something to be desired.

Mr. Johnston

The search for a designated place is being actively pursued in Inverness. In view of what the Solicitor-General for Scotland has said about detoxification centres, can he assure us that there will be financial support from the Government for such an objective?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

Although, with my responsibilities, I take a great interest in the handling of such matters, they are, strictly speaking, a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. I refer the hon. Gentleman to what my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. MacKay) said during an interesting debate on the matter during the Report stage of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Scotland) Bill.

Mr. Fairbairn

Can my hon. and learned Friend give the House a breakdown of the figure of 6,500? Are there 65 people who are charged a hundred times each, or 6,500 people who are only charged once?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

No, I cannot, but the point implicit in my hon. and learned Friend's question is one that I appreciate. Often, unhappily, those convicted of being drunk and incapable are repeatedly taken before the courts for the same offence.