THE author of a national report who believes an increase in the cost of alcohol is partly responsible for a fall in violent assaults has backed a North-East campaign calling for minimum pricing for alcohol

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, from Cardiff University,  said the campaign by Balance, the North-East alcohol office, for a minimum unit price for alcohol was more timely than ever.

He was speaking after a Cardiff University report showed the number of people injured in serious violence dropped by 12 per cent last year - with more than 32,000 fewer people treated for violence-related injuries compared to the previous year.

Prof Shepherd said social changes and higher alcohol prices had contributed to the fall in assaults.

But he warned:  “As we come out of the downturn and people have more disposable income and are more confident about going out on a Saturday night it is even more important to take action on alcohol prices,” said Prof Shepherd.

“The last thing we want is to relax the controls, otherwise violence will rise again."

He said plans to introduce minimum unit prices in Wales should be extended to England, in line with Balance's campaign.

The study looked at the number of people treated for serious injuries caused by violence at 17 hospitals including the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, Hartlepool General Hospital, North Tyneside General Hospital and the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

Balance, which is funded by local authorities, has been calling for a minimum price for alcohol of 45pm per unit.

Colin Shevills, director of Balance, said: “The Government’s introduction of a ban on sales of alcohol at below cost will have little impact – we need the introduction of a minimum unit price. Independent evidence shows that a minimum unit price would save lives, cut crime, and save costs to vital public services in the North East. 

"At the same time it is a targeted measure which wouldn’t penalise the moderate drinker or raise the prices in our community pubs.”

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, commented: “Binge drinking is falling, and has been falling since 2007.

"Harmful drinking and underage drinking are also down. When it comes to drinking sensibly, we believe that education and awareness programmes, and targeted help to the minority who misuse alcohol, are the best ways of addressing alcohol misuse.“