Crime link as Buckfast revealed to have as much caffeine as eight colas

BUCKFAST tonic wine was mentioned in 5,000 crime reports by Scotland's biggest police force in the last three years, an investigation has revealed, prompting calls for laws on caffeinated alcohol.

• Buckfast's high caffeine is being linked with thousands of criminal incidents in Scotland over the past three years

Medical experts backed action on the fortified wine made by monks in Devon but warned overall high alcohol consumption was the bigger threat.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The warnings came as figures published yesterday revealed Scots drink 25 per cent more alcohol, an extra two and a half litres of pure alcohol per year, than people in England and Wales.

According to Strathclyde Police, one in ten of the 5,000 crimes reported which mentioned Buckfast was violent. During the same period, Buckfast bottles were used as weapons 114 times.

Police said the figures suggested there was an association between Buckfast and violence.

The figures were obtained via Freedom of Information legislation by the BBC, to be reported in The Buckfast Code, a programme broadcast tonight.

Asked whether the figures meant that Buckfast could be said to be associated with violence, Strathclyde police superintendent Bob Hamilton said: "I think it's clear from the figures that there is an association there."

The investigation also looked at the ingredients of the drink and how they could affect the behaviour of consumers, potentially making them anxious and aggressive if Buckfast was drunk in large quantities.

Neuroscientist Dr Steven Alexander said there were 281 milligrammes of caffeine in a bottle of Buckfast – as much as eight cans of cola.

Researchers found inmates at Polmont Young Offenders' Institution who admitted drinking two bottles of Buckfast a day.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Asked about the effects of a person consuming more caffeine than in 16 cans of cola, Dr Alexander said: "It's going to have him bouncing around all over the place because the anxiety levels, the adrenalin, will be running around.

"He will certainly be feeling very anxious, very aggressive."

Labour MSP Richard Baker believes new legislation is needed to reduce access to caffeinated alcohol products and said Buckfast was the most popular caffeinated alcoholic drink in Scotland.

Mr Baker said: "We need to look at legislation in this area and what could be done in the law to take action on irresponsible amounts of caffeine in alcoholic drinks.

"There are things which could be done before that, if the makers of Buckfast could simply decide to reduce the amount of caffeine."

A spokeswoman for the British Medical Association agreed caffeine exacerbated Scotland's high alcohol consumption.

She said:

"There are far too many people drinking far too much."

Dr Evelyn Gillan, director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said: "Buckfast is a very unusual product. It is very much a problem for the west and Central Belt.

"There is no question it is a product that is used heavily by people there, but it makes up less than 1 per cent of all the alcohol sold in Scotland so we have to get it in context."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Asked about reducing Buckfast's caffeine content, Jim Wilson, from JC Chandler, the distributors of the tonic wine in Scotland, said: "It's been there for over 80 years. Why should we go about changing the recipe of something just to satisfy somebody's whim?"

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "What is needed is a comprehensive approach to tackling alcohol misuse, including our minimum pricing proposal, which is backed by police, health experts and now reportedly the Westminster Health Secretary."

• BBC Scotland Investigates: The Buckfast Code will be screened on BBC 1 at 7:30pm tonight.