Liquor liability trial in Ireland - A lesson for all

The death of a British man in Ireland in 2008 has led to the first prosecution under Ireland’s ‘liquor liability’ law. 

The case is still pending with both defendants pleading not guilty.

Whatever the outcome of such a case, the tragedy is that a young man (Graham Parish - 26) is another victim of excessive consumption of alcohol; and this is a case which is sadly far from unique.

The facts of the case are still emerging, what does seem clear is that he had been drinking for a number of hours during which time he had already consumed pints of Guinness some of which had added shots of spirits. If this was the case then there will clearly be an argument that he was intoxicated when the ‘challenge’ was made to drink (in one go) 10 shots of spirits out of a pint glass.

The consequence of this was him ‘slumping from his bar stool’ and staff and friends removing him to a conference room in the hotel where he later died.

This case is similar to that of the German barman who is serving a prison sentence for encouraging someone to drink themselves to death in Berlin by initiating a ‘drinking competition’. Although both these cases occurred outside of England or Wales under unique legislation to those countries, it is not inconceivable that now the first successful prosecution has taken place under the UK’s Corporate Manslaughter Law (although not for an alcohol related case), a similar case could not now be brought.

More important than the possibility of prosecution, is the preservation of life. The licensed retail sector needs to work more closely together to ensure this type of incident does not occur.

What is startling from this case is that it highlights once again both the lack of training which those on the front line of the licensed premises get and the ignorance amongst employees and customers alike as to the relative strengths of alcohol and the misinformation which is out there.

Our experience shows that the vast majority of those working on the front line selling alcohol have little understanding of the number of units in alcoholic drinks or even the safe daily and weekly limits of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol is a drug, a controlled drug maybe, but a drug none the less. It is quite amazing that we still accept that a controlled drug can be sold by someone who has not been given any training.

So far the manager in this case seems to have indicated that the training given was to inform staff of a number of ‘unwritten rules’. In relation to someone being too drunk, the unwritten rule seems to have been that once a customer is unsteady on their feet, they are drunk.

The problem is, that anyone who understands the process of alcohol getting into the blood, knows it is the level of Blood Alcohol Concentration which determines how drunk someone is, not the physical manifestations. Someone ‘stumbling’ as a symptom of being drunk may already well on their way to death from alcohol intoxication; if they have been consuming alcohol in a similar manner to Mr Parish did in this case.

It is a difficult balance between providing a service customer’s demand and protecting customers from themselves, but it is one which must be managed and to achieve this everyone involved in the sale of alcohol in any way needs suitable training. Only by such a co-ordinated approach can we hope to resolve some of the problems associated with alcohol and allow people to enjoy it in a safe environment.

The point at which the sale of alcohol should be stopped to a person in England and Wales is defined as ‘when a person is drunk’; a concept which licensing officers and the police struggle with because of the legal definitions, which are somewhat vague.

It will always be safer to calculate the level of drunkenness by what people consume, rather than the symptoms they display. When Mr Parish died he had 375ml of alcohol in his blood, well above what a recent study in Ireland discovered was the average for death through alcohol intoxication.


13th May Update – Both defendants in this case have subsequently been found not guilty. It seems that one of the main arguments in their defence was that they assumed that the 10 shot drink was going to be passed round the group.

Our recommendation is always that drinks never contain more than two standard shots, with the exception of cocktails (only where the list of ingredients demand it; in these cases the quantity of alcohol should be clearly indicated on the price list or menu) where three shots should never be exceeded.


At Beyond the Blue Training & Consultancy we deliver a number of different courses and services including;

For more information on any of our services, please call us on 01784 434 392 / 0845 602 55 95 (low call rate from UK landlines) or Contact Us.

To view the original article - Click Here

Source – 

Date – 13th May 2011

Submitted by – Peter Mayhew