Law and disorder

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A recent report aims to tackle late-night violenceby David Clifton, one of thePublican.com's legal team of experts from solicitors Joelson WilsonAn...

A recent report aims to tackle late-night violence

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

An interesting report has just been published by the Policing and Reducing Crime Unit, part of the Research, Development and Statistics Directorate of the Home Office. The unit is tasked with carrying out research on policing and crime reduction.

The report, entitled Drinks and Disorder: processing intoxicated arrestees in two city centre custody suites deals with, among other matters, the problems encountered when policing city centre entertainment districts.

The report is based on a study of two sites in metropolitan areas with late-night entertainment venues. Observations were carried out at both sites between 10.30pm and 3.30am throughout the week to coincide with the main pub and club closing times.

The report discusses how the police, licensees and particular agencies can work together and, through an integrated approach, reduce alcohol related disorder and violence in entertainment areas. The key recommendations fall into three categories; city centre management, deterrent and detection and call management in the city centre. The latter dealing with how detained arrestees are dealt with in custody.

City centre management

  • the suggestion is that there should be strengthened links between the various authorities and operators and interested bodies. This should aim to foster relations, share intelligence and increase the success of local initiatives.
  • staggered closing times of entertainment venues should be encouraged. Sufficient fast food venues should be open. Adequate transport facilities out of the city centre should be available. The aim is to reduce the potential for "flash points" outside venues and around fast food outlets and taxi ranks.

Deterrents and detection

  • police resources should be targeted to enable high visibility policing at identified difficult areas at busy times. CCTV should be used to assist the swift and appropriate deployment of officers.
  • local licensing units should target visits to licensed premises at busy times to ensure the laws are not being flouted. Good serving and security practices are to be encouraged.
  • licensees should substitute standard and quality glass and bottles with toughened glass or plastic. Licensees should "design out" overcrowding in the venue's layout. Good serving and security practices should be implemented and well advertised to reduce the potential for incidents to arise or escalate.
  • CCTV should be installed and well managed by licensees. Bar and doorstaff should be well trained, good record-keeping practices should be maintained and there should be a commitment to pub and club watch schemes to support "policing" of the city centre.

With reference to CCTV, the report identified that it had been shown to be a useful tool in deterring crime, both to extend formal surveillance and provide supporting evidence. City centre systems monitored by the police were useful in identifying problems and in tracking people as they moved around.

The report found that where the system is linked to the pubwatch and radio link systems, the police can react more effectively as those using the system alerted the CCTV operator to potential trouble as it occurred.

Doorstaff were also seen as key ingredients in minimising problems, particularly when working in co-operation with the police. According to the report, both police and licensees believe that a national registration scheme should be introduced.

Matters for concern and consideration related to the standardisation of training and creating additional qualifications to identify better supervisors. It was also felt that it would assist in allowing freedom of movement for workers within the industry.

As far as the general design of an entertainment venue, the report identified that adequate seating, controlling numbers and physical design of the premises were all measures of control which the licensee should have regard to when considering the operation of his premises.

The report also commented on the proposal relating to staggered hours and the research identified that the police felt staggered closing times would be useful in spreading the numbers of people on the streets over the night. It was felt that potential disorder would be spread over a longer period and avoid flashpoints.

This was at the expense of the predictability of disorder peaks which some officers identified.

The report is interesting not only with regard to its approach, but also many of the conclusions it draws. It appears to continue to maintain the views expressed in the government's White Paper "Time For Reform: proposals for modernisation of the licensing laws". Many of the suggestions raised reflect those included in the white paper published two years ago.

Related topics: Legislation

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