Trade uniting behind calls to protect licensees from attack
Pressure is mounting on the Government and police forces to ensure thugs who attack licensees and pub staff receive proper punishment.
Trade leaders are this week uniting around calls for a rethink of Home Office guidance that allows offenders to be cautioned if they commit violent assaults.
It follows a number of sickening attacks on hosts at pubs in Bolton, which resulted in cautions for the offenders.
Last week the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) wrote to Home Office minister Vernon Coaker urging him to consider whether Home Office guidance to caution in these cases is acceptable.
The BBPA included the story from the MA in which a 17-year-old was cautioned for attacking Ray Sutton,
licensee of the Last Orders pub in Bolton.
This week BII (British Institute of Innkeeping) chief executive John McNamara said: "In general terms, if people are attacked the attacker should receive more than a ticking off. As for licensees and other people doing a public duty, the case is even stronger. If he is attacked he is probably trying to protect the public or customers, or trying to exclude the attacker from the premises."
Godfrey Page, chairman of the Guild of Master Victuallers, said the issue was particularly important after the smoking ban because licensees faced the possibility of conflict when asking customers to stub out.
Page said: "More and more licensees are being attacked. Licensees are in the front line and the smoking ban means there's more chance of conflict, and licensees definitely need more protection.
"I accept that a caution means acceptance of guilt, but it's little consolation for the licensee. We do need attacks on licensees to be taken more seriously."
A National Pubwatch spokesman said: "It is difficult to comment about individual cases without knowing the full facts. However, we would question whether it is always in the 'public interest' to caution people who have committed serious assaults on licensees.
"If licensees are to play a full part in robustly enforcing licensing law then they must have confidence that the police and courts will protect them when things go wrong. We hope that in the case of Ray Sutton that police will work closely with the local pubwatch scheme to ensure that his assailant doesn't have the opportunity to re-offend."
Meanwhile, the chief inspector of Bolton Police, Martin Greenhalgh, has been in talks with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) about sentencing policy after pressure from local licensees.
Greenhalgh said: "I recognise all the issues that licensees and the public are raising about the criminal justice system. The police and CPS work closely together to deliver appropriate outcomes in line with national policy and the guidelines we have to observe.
"However, I want to reassure licensees that I do take assaults upon them very
seriously. To this end, I am having discussions with the head of the Crown Prosecution Service in Bolton to try to develop an approach for the future."