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BBPA warning over Christmas stings

By John Harrington , 05-Oct-2007

Related topics: General News

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has urged the Government to resist plans to hold the national sting campaign targeting pubs that serve drunks during the Christmas period.

The MA revealed last week that Home Office funding is to be available for a national campaign where undercover police will be planted in pubs to catch staff serving drunks. The operation is to run from November and during Christmas.

BBPA chief executive Rob Hayward met Home Office officials this week to express concerns with the planned operation. He told the MA: "I asked if it's going to go ahead, is it appropriate to do it in and around the Christmas season?

"It makes it far more likely that there will be an element of group aggression if a host refuses to serve one person because nearly everyone in the pub will be part of a group."

Hayward also highlighted the difficulties people have defining what is meant by being drunk - no legal definition for the term exists.

And he expressed concern that the targeted campaign would mean police are obliged to make arrests for serving drunks. Hayward explained: "If you sent someone out, they can't return and say they have spent the whole day (in a pub) and chose not to arrest anybody."

Blackpool police began a pilot project last month and have so far issued two fines to staff serving drunks.

"Somehow, we have to change attitudes - the main aim is to say to pubs you can't continue serving people until they are paralytic," said licensing officer Steve Hardman.

Premises are targeted using intelligence and two plain clothes officers are stationed there to observe. "We are not looking at borderline cases, but at situations where someone is obviously drunk - perhaps slurring speech or staggering or unable to count out their money for a drink."

Hardman said licence reviews could be an option for premises found to consistently serve drunks.

guidance on drunks needed

A trade leader has called for clear guidance from Government on the definition of being drunk, in advance of the planned undercover operation.

Bar, Entertainment & Dance Association (Beda) senior consultant Jon Collins said providing guidance could avoid police forces applying different definitions and means of testing drunks.

"With 400-odd different police command units experimenting [with the definition of being drunk], it would be problematic for operators," said Collins.

"If someone is underage, it's black and white, but when do you go from having a few drinks after work to being drunk? It's a very messy area."

A Home Office spokeswoman said details, including whether advice will be issued, are not available at this stage.

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