Health officials in the north-east are calling on the government to reconsider its decision not to press ahead with implementing minimum alcohol prices.

According to Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, research carried out in Canada has revealed an increase in alcohol prices can lead to a drop in violent crime and drink-related motoring offences, such as causing death by dangerous driving, the Chronicle reports.

Colin Shevills, director of the organisation, believes the study adds to a "growing evidence base" that introducing minimum unit prices will cut crime, save lives, reduce hospital admissions and ease the pressure on frontline services.

While the government has so far opted not to press ahead with this approach, a spokesperson for the Department of Health said the idea of minimum unit pricing is currently under consideration and that it is "monitoring developments across the world".

The official also stressed that the government is aiming to build on the Alcohol Strategy launched three years ago to "tackle alcohol as a driver of crime and support people to stay healthy, whilst cutting red tape for responsible businesses and supporting local pubs".

However, Balance wants the government to go further and take heed of the "independent, academic, peer-reviewed evidence" from Canada.

Mr Shevills insisted the measure would protect some of the most vulnerable members of society without "penalising the rest of us".

Indeed, he argued that minimum unit prices would target young people and heavy drinkers who drink the cheapest and strongest products, while moderate drinkers would be largely unaffected.

Vera Baird, police and crime commissioner for Northumbria, has also backed this approach, as alcohol is involved in "innumerable kinds of offending".

She threw her weight behind Newcastle City Council's proposal for minimum alcohol pricing to be implemented as a condition on some new premises licences, as there is "firm evidence that we can improve public safety and reduce crime by taking such steps".

Ms Baird added that these are both key priorities in light of ongoing cuts to police funding, as this means police resources must be used in "the most efficient and effective way".

Robert Botkai, a partner at Winckworth Sherwood Services, commented on the Canadian research, noting: "The same research finds no significant link between off licence store densities and alcohol-related traffic violation or alcohol-related crime. Perhaps this could be considered by Licensing Authorities when implementing cumulative impact policies.”