National Pubwatch Conference 2010: Tackling the troublemakers

By Matt Eley Matt

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: National pubwatch, Pint glass

One of the major recent achievements of National Pubwatch has been to start a debate about how thugs are getting away with physically attacking...

One of the major recent achievements of National Pubwatch has been to start a debate about how thugs are getting away with physically attacking licensees and pub workers.

Through its 'Court Not Caution' campaign it has successfully highlighted that many incidents result in the attackers being given a caution rather than facing stiffer sentences.

The profile has been successfully raised and big hitters such as Jack Straw have vowed to look at how the cautions system is being used by police.

The campaign's Downing Street petition has also resulted in the government stating that all "serious" assaults on pub workers should result in a court hearing.

So with that backdrop it was appropriate that this year's National Pubwatch Conference kicked off with a video on the issue showing the often heartbreaking experiences of licensees who have been attacked at work and, in some instances, have struggled to return.

Steve Baker, National Pubwatch chairman, told an audience of licensees, police and council officials in Northamptonshire last week that he wanted to see licensees given more support from authorities.

"We think it follows that if licensees act in a responsible manner and things go wrong and they are assaulted then the criminal justice system should support them," Baker said.

It was a theme that was picked up throughout last week's event by the main speakers and in various workshops held throughout the day.

The policeman

Commander Simon O'Brien is the Association of Chief Police Officers' national lead for licensing.

He said that one of his aims in the job has been to try and change the "negative debate" around alcohol in the UK.

O'Brien went on to say that good licensees are a valuable resource for police. "One of your best policemen is your publican who operates a well-run house. I do believe you do a very difficult job," he said.

He called for the industry to end in-fighting, such as the on-trade blaming the off-trade for social ills, and to work together.

"Different authorities and bodies have differing views and policies about the problem of alcohol but all of us must come together to help make our pubs and licensed premises safer places," he said.

O'Brien added that many people were afraid to go out into town centres due to problems of rowdy behaviour.

He believes this, coupled with an ageing population, means that pubs need to change their offer to target "changing demographics".

The Home Office

Mark Cooper is the deputy head of the Home Office's Alcohol Strategy Unit. He has been involved in major policy such as the mandatory code for the alcohol industry.

He said that the aims of the government and the industry are more closely aligned that the perception can suggest.

"Whereas we may disagree over some policy issues in the end the aim is ultimately the same for all of us - to achieve a safer drinking environment in all licensed premises throughout the UK," he said.

He explained recent changes to legislation including the implementation of a 'two strikes and you're out' rule for retailers who sell to under-18s. Previously licensees and shopkeepers had three chances in three months before being stripped of a licence.

He went on to defend the consultation around the mandatory code. He said that the government had ditched giving councils more discretionary powers following various national workshops and a survey.

The new code, which will see some promotions banned and licensees forced to offer free tap water, is expected to come into force in part in April.

Cooper added: "We have come a long way in the last two or three years and I think this year we will be building on that and moving forward."

The designer

Jeremy Myerson is a board member of the Design Council, which has been involved in a project to produce the pint glass of the future.

Myerson explained that his team has been looking at ways of reducing the number of glassings in the UK by making the pint glass safer.

"The British pint glass is an icon and you mess with it at your peril - it's a sensitive area," he said.

He explained that the first prototype demonstrated was made from glass with a plastic wall and the second from two walls of glass around a resin.

The glasses are more robust but, he said, the drinking experience is not impacted as it can be with plastic or polycarbonate products.

The pub operator

Stephen Gould is managing director of Leicester-based brewery and pub company Everards, which has an estate of 170 pubs.

He gave examples of how Everards had responded and learnt from any incidents of violence at its pubs, such as investing in CCTV coverage at some pubs and car parks, working with local communities to find the right licensee for a premises and through building relationships with police. Gould added that there are "too many town and city centres that we are just not comfortable to go to" but that problems can be dealt with by the Licensing Act rather than creating rafts of new laws.

Gould went on to say that tenanted and leased pubs can learn from the managed sector when it comes to dealing with violence at work by investing in CCTV and recruitment and training.

He added that the any action against pubs should be "proportionate".

"I firmly believe the problems are in less than 10 per cent of pubs and clubs in the UK and I believe the pub industry is aware and committed," he said.

Derby licensee wins the first Pubwatch Lifetime Achievement award

The first National Pubwatch Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by Commander Simon O'Brien to Derby licensee David Lalor, who set up the city's Pubwatch scheme more than 20 years ago.

David, who has been licensee at the Station Inn for 25 years, was praised for being "someone who gets things done".

He said: "It makes me very proud to have worked with Pubwatch over the last 20 years in Derby. Without the partnership networks we have created we could not have achieved what we have in making it a safe environment for people."

What is National Pubwatch?

National Pubwatch is a voluntary organisation that supports existing Pubwatch groups across the country.

The individual schemes are run by licensees who provide information and support to one another to deal with issues such as crime in pubs.

Police and local authorities often provide additional support to the groups. For more information visit www.nationalpubwatch.org.uk

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