What idiot throws bottles at fire crews?
IT was a farce that could easily have ended in tragedy. Hundreds of nightclubbers in Ipswich had a lucky escape. From their own stupidity.
IT was a farce that could easily have ended in tragedy. Hundreds of nightclubbers in Ipswich had a lucky escape. From themselves.
News of events at Cardinal Park last Friday night got rather overwhelmed in popular euphoria at the result of a rugby match. So in case you missed it, I thought I'd give you another chance to ponder the meaning of the evening's mayhem.
It's coming up to midnight and the night's entertainment at the Liquid and Brannigans nightclubs is just getting into full swing. Then fire breaks out in a staff toilet at Liquid.
Let's pass over the question of what caused flames to erupt in paper and cables in such an unlikely place. Maybe it was just unlucky – who knows?
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Between 400 and 500 people are evacuated from the two clubs and the nearby Old Orleans restaurant.
Firefighters arrive to put out the flames, save the buildings and rescue anyone who may be caught inside.
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And are met by a barrage of bottles and chanting by some of the very people they are there to protect.
In the words of leading firefighter Darren Cooper: "When we got there, there was a lot of crowd trouble, bottle-throwing and fighting outside. It definitely obstructed our work.
"There was no way under those conditions that we could have tackled a major fire."
Good job it wasn't a major fire, then. Good job, too, that the collective insanity of the morons who impeded the fire crew didn't allow it to grow into a major fire.
So what kind of idiot starts fighting or throwing bottles at firefighters when evacuated from a burning building? A drunken idiot, of course.
Come to that, what kind of country singer drives off from an accident he's caused, then knees a police officer when he's taken in? A drunk one, of course.
And what kind of footballer… No, I'd better not pursue that one, because the case I have in mind is still in the legal process and I wouldn't want to prejudice any future jury. And, unlikely as it may seem, it may be one case in which alcohol is not involved.
Alcohol definitely is involved, though, in most cases of assault. In most cases of violence or affray. In an appalling number of pointless deaths on the roads.
And it's not just drivers who contribute to that last point, either.
A few Christmases ago, driving home in the dark, I had to take sudden avoiding action when a man loomed out in front of me. He may have been trying to test his sobriety by walking along the white line. I don't think he was sober enough ever to know I was there.
He was lucky – but so was I. Whenever you drive past anyone on foot you place your faith in the hope that they won't suddenly lurch or fall into your path.
A study published this week by the Transport Research Laboratory revealed some sobering figures.
Almost half the adult pedestrians killed on the roads had been drinking at the time. For victims aged from 16 to 34, the figure is above 70 per cent.
The research was not bang up to date. It was based on coroners' records for the years 1995-99. But it showed a sharp increase on a similar survey a decade earlier, and it seems likely the trend is still upward.
Then there's the experience not just of Ipswich's unfortunate firefighters, but police, ambulance crews and hospital staff too.
Another report published this week had some more disturbing statistics:
n 90pc of A&E staff in hospitals say they have suffered or witnessed abuse by drunk people they are trying to treat.
n 92pc of police officers have suffered violent abuse from drunks.
n Alcohol-related crime is estimated to cost £7.3billion a year in Britain.
n Health problems stemming directly from alcohol cost the NHS £1.7bn.
Now I enjoy an occasional pint of Adnams after work, or a glass or two of wine with a meal. But drinking to get drunk is another matter entirely. And it is clear we have a problem here – a real and massive problem.
Tempting though it may be, I am not advocating the prohibition of alcohol. American tried that in the 1920s, and in many ways is still paying the price.
What is needed is something much more subtle, and much more difficult. We need a shift in culture, not necessarily towards abstinence but towards moderation.
Actually, what we need to do as a society is grow up. And no, I have no more idea than you how we might make that happen.