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Last Updated: Friday, 4 June, 2004, 11:00 GMT 12:00 UK
Licence law reforms could be 'hell'
People piled up in Nottingham
Britain has a reputation for a heavy drinking culture

The Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police says he fears the legalisation of all-night drinking in the UK could become "my idea of hell".

Stephen Green told the BBC's Panorama programme that the deregulation of licensing laws which will take effect next year could lead to Britain's alcohol problem getting worse, not better.

The government argues that allowing pubs and bars to stay open longer will help curb the binge drinking blamed for an 11% rise in violent offences last year.

The proposals, announced in March but originally promised before the last election, could mean 24-hour drinking in some pubs.

Among the provisions in the updated Licensing Act 2003 is a plan to combine alcohol and entertainment licences into one single licence.

Local authorities will also get discretion to apply flexible opening hours, removing the power from magistrates who have been responsible for liquor licensing for 600 years.

Huge concern

Chief Constable Steven Green
The people who most need policing can't get it, because police officers... are being sucked into policing the Nottingham city centre
Chief Constable Steven Green

The move to extend opening hours is a matter of huge concern for Chief Constable Stephen Green.

"The risk period that we have to police will get longer. And therefore, the resource consequences will get greater. I don't see any great benefit to me as the police chief in that change.

"I think the idea that we can somehow sort of transform into a 24-hour café culture à la continental Europe isn't going to happen."

"I think what we're going to finish up with, if we're not careful, is a 24-hour version of what we've got now - and that is my idea of hell."

Too many bars

The Chief Constable also believes Nottingham cannot cope with any more bars. Last year he took the unusual step of personally opposing two licensing applications in the courts.

Chief Constable Green thinks that, in Nottingham at least, the increased number of bars in the city centre has led to police resources being pulled away from other areas at the weekends.

The square mile in the city now boasts a total of 356 bars.

He said: "I believe the people who most need policing can't get it, because police officers who should be on the outer city estates, on the inner city estates, in the suburbs, are being sucked out of those areas into policing the Nottingham city centre."

Another particular concern is price discounting. "A pound a drink, two for the price of one - this is just a blatant inducement to what is binge drinking."

Panorama: Cldnt Give a XXXX 4 Lst Ordrs was broadcast on BBC One on Sunday, 6 June 2004 at 22:15 BST

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