SELLING Buckfast in cans could reduce bottle attacks and injuries, a leading medical expert has claimed.

With research showing a higher proportion of violent offenders use bottles than knives, Dr Peter Rice, chairman of the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said the new £2.90 25cl cans were a positive.

J Chandler, the firm which distributes the caffeinated drink, which is 15% alcohol, has been under pressure for several years to produce it in plastic bottles.

The firm said there would be an initial run of 16,000 to coincide with the summer season and if successful the new product would sit alongside the traditional 75cl glass bottle, which sells for over £7.

Dr Rice, a consultant psychiatrist in Tayside and expert in alcohol-related brain injuries, said: "There are upsides and downsides.

"The biggest upside is moving away from the glass bottle towards cans. The police view is there would be a lot less hassle if some products weren't in glass bottles and there's been academic research pointing to the environmental impact of glass.

"Buckfast has resisted moves towards plastic bottles, so I think on balance this is a move in the right direction."

He added: "The cans will cost £2.90 and that's nowhere near the minimum unit price suggested. Buckfast gets the blame when its mixed with other cheap alcohols. Our focus continues to be on the cheap white ciders and cheap vodkas."

An analysis by Dr Alasdair Forsyth, of the Centre for the Study of Violence at Glasgow Caledonian University, of research into young offenders and drinking previously found that 43% of those who drank alcohol before committing their offence said they drank Buckfast.

A spokesman for J Chandler said: "The public health minister for Scotland called on businesses to promote responsible consumption of alcohol and make smaller measures of wine available to consumers in January. That's when we decided we should look at bringing Buckfast out in a smaller unit."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Clearly, it is important that people have the ability to choose a smaller measure if they wish.

"However, time and time again, the research proves that affordability is the key factor in the misuse of alcohol and that the most effective way to tackle this is by setting a minimum unit price."