Cornish drunk death fall avoidable, says family

Cornish Cliffs

From the BBC 11/07/13:

The parents of a 26-year-old man found dead on a Newquay beach have called his death "tragic and avoidable".

Oliver Doy, from Hampshire, was found dead six days after he was last seen by friends leaving a nightclub, [having travelled down to Cornwall for a weekend of body boarding with two friends].

Police said they thought he may have fallen over a cliff behind his hostel in the town.

But Deputy Coroner Andrew Cox said there was no evidence to show how he died and recorded an open verdict.

Police said CCTV footage showed Mr Doy "staggering around drunk" early in the morning on 7 January 2012.

A pathologist said the amount of alcohol in his blood was approaching three times the drink driving limit.

According to a report featured on This is Cornwall, Doy’s parents slammed Newqay’s drinking culture saying he might still be alive if bar staff at two night spots had refused to serve him.

An emotional Mrs Doy told the court: “There’s a culture of young people going to Newquay with the sole purpose of drinking excessively and I think that was a contributing factor to my son’s death.

“People in night clubs need to do their jobs. They have a duty of care, although you wouldn’t think so serving alcohol to people who have already had enough. They are putting profit before any moral duty. [If they hadn’t] perhaps none of us would be sat here now and we’d still have our Ollie with us.”

High alcohol content, high cliffs and high spirits don’t make a very safe combination.

From the suspected facts, this had a great deal in common with an incident I blogged about in 2009 involving a student who had visited Newquay to celebrate the end of his exams and fell to his death after a session of heavy drinking.

But this case is slightly more puzzling in that the coroner was unable to determine the precise cause of death. Doy had certainly not drowned but neither was there was clear indication of injuries consistent with a high cliff fall. CCTV lost track of Doy in the moments leading up to his death.

In any event, alcohol certainly seemed to play a significant part in the death.

As regards a bar serving alcohol to a person who is clearly drunk, you can forget the ‘moral duty’ aspect of it; it is an offence under section 141 of the Licensing Act 2003 to serve alcohol to someone in that state. The real problem is enforcement, of course, and how to provide a balanced, workable framework so that bars can safely serve alcohol whilst remaining in business. And, search as we might, I don’t think there are any easy answers to be found here. After all, the line between someone who has had a few drinks and someone who is dangerously drunk can be a very difficult one to consistently draw. And let’s not get hung-up on this being a problem unique to Newquay; is there any truly safe place to get seriously drunk?

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