CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed high-level police support for a minimum unit price for alcohol.

Durham Police Chief Constable Jon Stoddart said yesterday that the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) backed the proposal.

Mr Stoddart was speaking at the Tackling Alcohol in our Communities conference, at Ramside Hall Hotel, in Durham City, where delegates heard that alcohol misuse was costing the region’s crime and licensing authorities more than £300m a year.

The event was organised by Balance, the North-East alcohol office, and the North-East Strategic Licensing Group, to discuss new licensing powers.

Mr Stoddart said: “The evidence shows that the introduction of a minimum unit price for alcohol would have a major impact on reducing not only crime, but deaths, hospital admissions and absenteeism.

“It is common sense that Acpo backs this measure, which Balance has been consistently calling for over the last few years.

“It is also common sense that we would make this announcement here, where alcohol misuse is having the greatest impact. Coupled with greater powers to regulate the availability of alcohol through licensing, a minimum unit price will help reduce crime and save lives.”

The announcement was welcomed by Balance director Colin Shevills. He said: “Acpo’s support further confirms the importance of introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol.

“Although the introduction of a minimum unit price is instrumental in turning back the tide of alcohol misuse, we also need to consider measures which reduce the availability of alcohol, which is what today’s conference is all about.

“Alcohol is available 24-7, 365 days a year on almost every corner. In the North-East, we have the highest rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions in England and the highest rate of under-18s in treatment.”

Mr Shevills said it was no coincidence the North-East had more off-licence premises per person than most other English regions.

He said the number of places selling alcohol was proportionate to the number of violent assaults in that area.