Crackdown on crime - a new report aims to tackle alcohol-related crime

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Related tags: Solicitors joelson wilsonthe, Isle of man, Alcoholic beverage, Drinking culture

by David Clifton, one of thePublican.com's legal team of advisors from London solicitors Joelson WilsonThe National Association for the Care and...

by David Clifton, one of thePublican.com's legal team of advisors from London solicitors Joelson Wilson

The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NACRO) recently issued a report in which it argued that the problem of alcohol-related crime is entrenched in British drinking culture.

High levels of alcohol consumption are reported in the UK compared with other European countries. It is claimed that drinking to inebriation is more common in the cultures of northern rather than southern Europe, especially among young people. Contrary to the then Home Secretary's hopes expressed in the Licensing Reform White Paper last year that a relaxation of licensing hours would bring an end to binge-drinking, the NACRO report indicates that 24-hour drinking policies in countries with drinking cultures comparable to those in the UK have tended to exacerbate crime and disorder rather than reduce it.

The report relies on other research including:

  • a recent World Health Organisation report that one in eight deaths of young men in the UK is caused by alcohol abuse
  • a study of 5,000 people between the ages of 12 to 30, which concluded that men who drank regularly were more likely to be offenders than those who drank occasionally or not at all
  • a finding that consumption of "designer drinks" tends to be associated with heavier intake and greater drunkenness.

The NACRO report recommends that the following should be included in any strategy for tackling alcohol-related crime:

  • more effective referral for treatment before conviction
  • help and treatment in prisons with offenders specifically addressing alcohol problems and a thorough assessment of treatment programmes
  • obligatory training of licensees on relevant law, management of violence, pub design and crime reduction schemes
  • proof-of-age cards
  • liability of licensees in cases of injury or damage caused by a customer who has been served with too much alcohol by reason of the licensee's negligence
  • prohibition of advertisements associating alcohol with a "good night out" and advertisements for strong drinks aimed at young drinkers
  • local authorities to use their licensing and other powers to avoid creating potential flashpoints for nuisance and disorder
  • prohibition or restriction of "happy hours"
  • use of toughened glass drinking vessels
  • control of over-crowding.

Night courts

There has been much publicity recently over the Government's intention to open night and weekend courts issuing immediate sanctions to "young thugs and drunken offenders" with a view to reassuring the public that such problems are being dealt with. The proposals have been criticised by lawyers and magistrates but the Government clearly views them as a further aspect of its toughened law and order policy.

Examples of the night and weekend courts proposed from January next year are as follows:

  • Manchester City Magistrates Court to be opened from 10am to 10pm six days a week
  • London: One of Horseferry Road, Bow Street, Marylebone or West London Magistrates Courts to sit until midnight (adult court) or 10pm (youth court) six days a week.

The proposals are subject to detail to be worked out by the Lord Chancellor's Department which has been quoted as saying: "We are still working on proposals for extended hours in courts, looking at the options which might be available and the costing implications."

Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001

Further toughening of law and order by the proposed implementation of police powers to close licensed premises under the above Act has been put back due to a delay in production of Government guidelines.

As reported on thePublican.com on 11th June this year, (Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 - The Essential Guide) it was intended that those powers would come into effect on October 1, but this will no longer be the case since two months consideration of the guidelines is considered to be necessary in order to enable the establishment of the necessary court procedures.

Accordingly, it is now expected that the provisions of the Act, enabling the police to close on-licensed premises, test purchasing for underage service and a positive duty to establish customers' age will come into effect on December 1. Keep logging on to thePublican.com for confirmation of the exact position.

Isle of Man

Flying in the face of the findings in the NACRO report are comments by police in the Isle of Man to the effect that arrests on the island have fallen by approximately 40 per cent since it became the first part of the British Isles to dispense with permitted hours for licensed premises on July 12.

The new legislation on the island is designed to balance freedom of hours with an increased obligation on licensees to control their premises and to minimise disturbance. There is a power to close premises or to restrict opening hours in circumstances where it is shown that licensees have acted irresponsibly. The playing of music is banned between midnight and 7am, except where extensions are granted on application.

As reported on thePublican.com on August 3 (Isle of Man: Extended hours legislation brings drop in crime, most clubs on the island have applied for a licence until 3.30am, allowing them to serve drinks after this time as long as no music is played. Inspector Gary Roberts of the Isle of Man police has been quoted as saying: "Pubs and clubs are now closing between 12.30am and 3.30am and we have fewer people on the streets at any one time."

Those arguing for extended opening hours in England and Wales will no doubt rely upon the immediate experience of the Isle of Man that staggered closing times have led to a reduction in crime.

Related topics: Licensing law

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