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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 July, 2004, 09:11 GMT 10:11 UK
Binge drinking crackdown launched
A pint of beer being drunk
Anti-social drinkers could be banned from city centres under the initiative
A summer campaign to tackle loutish binge drinkers and reduce alcohol-fuelled violence begins on Thursday.

On-the-spot fines, sting operations and anti-social behaviour orders will be used in town and city centres.

Seventy-seven areas in England and Wales are the focus of the eight-week crackdown, which is a joint initiative between the police and government.

After the initial period the Home Office plans more similar operations in a bid to "kick start a culture change".

'Named and shamed'

Off-licences and bars suspected of selling alcohol to under-age drinkers will face sting operations.

It will be less accepted by society for young men and women to go out and drink until they can't remember who they are
Hazel Blears
Home Office minister

Youngsters aged under 18 will be sent in to buy goods from the premises and catch offending businesses.

Off-licences, bars and clubs will be "named and shamed" should they be successfully prosecuted.

Fixed penalty notices of 40 will be handed out to the drunk and disorderly.

Bars and pubs could lose their licences if their customers later get into trouble with police and rowdy premises could be closed for 24 hours.

Home Office minister Hazel Blears said one-in-four people cite alcohol-related violence as a problem in their area.

And alcohol accounts for 44% of all violent crime, claimed Ms Blears.

She said: "We're aiming to kick start a culture change where it will be less accepted by society for young men and women to go out and drink until they can't remember who they are, to start fights in taxi queues, and cause violent, drink-fuelled scenes.

Boy in off-licence
Irresponsible off-licences could be caught out by 'sting' operations

"We are working closely with the police, drinks industry and local councils to reclaim our town and city centres for decent, law abiding citizens."

Stephen Green from the Association of Chief Police Officers said: "The message to people who are going to go out and get wasted is that police have a wide range of powers to use, from fixed penalty notices through to the full weight of the court - and they have a will to use them."

The campaign has been welcomed by the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers after it found that shopworkers were bullied, spat at, physically attacked, threatened and verbally abused when they refused to sell age-restricted goods to young customers.

John Hannett, Usdaw's General Secretary, said: "Shopworkers can find themselves in dangerous situations when they refuse to sell age-restricted products on the basis that the customer is not old enough.

"Shopworkers are threatened, attacked and subjected to terrible insults simply because they are upholding the law.

"These workers need better protection."

The union is now calling for the introduction of a mandatory proof of age scheme.

The alcohol enforcement campaign will be aimed at 77 local police areas where tackling drink-related disorder is considered to be a priority.

Home Secretary David Blunkett has said he will not tolerate anti-social drunks turning city centres into "no-go areas".

Alcohol is the root cause of 70% of weekend night admissions to casualty, according to Home Office statistics.

And alcohol misuse is thought to cost Britain around 20 billion a year through crime, injuries and lost productivity at work.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's Wyre Davies
"Binge drinking has become an expensive social menace"



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