Councillor defends 'thunderingly offensive' anti-drinking campaign

The councillor behind a campaign about the dangers of young women drinking has hit back at claims it is "thunderingly offensive" and that it takes Britain back 60 years.

Sunderland City Council has been accused of victim blaming over an advertising campaign showing a young teenage girl holding a baby.

Liberal Democrat campaigner John Leech, who led the Ask for Angela campaign in Manchester to help women stay safe on dates, said the wording was staggering.

The posters read: "Talk to your daughter about alcohol now, before it starts making decisions for her.

"In a couple of years' time, your daughter could go to a party, drink too much alcohol and be pressured into having unsafe sex.

"Talk about it with her now and help her make the right choice. Why let drink decide?"

The posters appear on buses, at Metro stations and on bus stops.

Former Liberal Democrat MP John Leech pictured in 2015 (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Former Liberal Democrat MP John Leech pictured in 2015 (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Mr Leech, a former MP, said: "Whilst it's not advisable to drink to excess, it is never, ever, an excuse for someone to take advantage of a young girl - or anyone for that matter.

"This kind of thunderingly offensive and inane victim blaming takes Britain back about 60 years and is unimaginably counter-productive to tackling the real causes of sexual assault."

He called for the posters to be removed.

But Labour Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council portfolio holder for public health, said they were not victim blaming and the aim of the posters was to get parents to talk to their children - both boys and girls - about the dangers of drinking.

He said: "We are not casting aspersions on people's characters, accidents happen, mistakes happen, when you drink to the point you cannot control yourself or those around you."

Coun Kelly said the aim was to reduce the "astronomical" number of young people in the city who need hospital treatment after drinking.

Last year a 10-year-old needed hospital treatment for the effects of alcohol.

The council's campaign has another strand aimed at boys (Sunderland City Council/PA)
The council's campaign has another strand aimed at boys (Sunderland City Council/PA)

Sunderland has the country's sixth highest rate of teenage conceptions and the third highest for under-16s.

Coun Kelly said he was disgusted with the Liberal Democrats' politicisation of the campaign, and accused them of stupidity.

He added: "I make no apology whatsoever for trying to safeguard young people in the city of Sunderland."

Coun Kelly said the Liberal Democrats had not commented on another strand of the campaign aimed at encouraging parents to talk to teenage boys about the dangers of drink leading to violence.

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