Fight for licensing reform gains police backing

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Home office, Police

Police have once again put their weight behind the fight for licensing reform, saying it is the only way to deal with alcohol-related violence.A...

Police have once again put their weight behind the fight for licensing reform, saying it is the only way to deal with alcohol-related violence.

A newly-published Home Office report, based on interviews with town centre police and licensees, discovered widespread support for staggered closing times.

The report, titled Drunks and Disorder: Processing intoxicated arrestees in two city-centre custody suites, was published by the Home Office's policing and reducing crime unit.

It examined alcohol-related crime and disorder at closing time and found almost six in 10 arrestees displayed signs of being drunk.

It concluded the best way to stop the binge-drinking culture was to stagger closing times - as suggested in the government's licensing reform white paper.

One of the police officers interviewed for the report said: "It [staggered closing times] will benefit us. Some people think that when the bell rings at 11pm they have to get as much beer down their necks as fast as they can. If that bell never rings then there won't be a time pressure. Once people realise they can get a drink whenever they like they won't be silly with it."

The trade has welcomed the report, which it believes could help to speed up licensing reform.

Mark Hastings, spokesman for the British Beer and Pub Association, said: "This reinforces the message we as an industry have been seeking to put forward for some time. Licensing reform will bring real benefits.

"However, what this report also emphasises is that any reform needs to be truly flexible." he added. "If we are bogged down in a restrictive system with red tape, the benefits will be limited."

A spokesman for the Home Office confirmed the report would be used by those drawing up preliminary legislation.

Other findings in the report included the fact that a multi-agency option to tackling crime was seen to be the best approach. The report said liaison between the police, local authorities and the licensed trade - as in Crime and Disorder Partnerships - was vital.

The police also reassured licensees not to be afraid of calling for assistance if there was disorder in their pub.

They were keen to reassure publicans that calling the police would not be a black mark against the premises and could even work in favour of the licensee.

Related topics: Licensing law

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