[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 August 2005, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Violence fear over new drink laws
Bar taps
Nine out of 10 pubs are thought to have applied for late licences
Plans to relax drinking laws in England and Wales will lead to a sharp increase in violent crime, judges have warned.

Rapes and serious assaults will soar if pubs are allowed to open longer, said the Council of Her Majesty's Circuit Judges, which represents 600 judges.

Police chiefs also warned the new drink laws, to start in November, will lead to a holiday-resort drinking culture.

The government says late licences will curb bad behaviour by stopping drinkers from heading home at the same time.

'Great mistake'

Licensed premises can apply to extend their opening hours beyond 11pm from 24 November, potentially in some cases to allow 24-hour drinking.

Continental-style drinking requires continental-style people
Judge Harris

The judges' report stated: "Those who routinely see the consequences of drink-fuelled violence in offences of rape, grievous bodily harm and worse on a daily basis are in no doubt that an escalation of offences of this nature will inevitably be caused by the relaxation of liquor licensing which the government has now authorised."

Conservative leader Michael Howard told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the judges' warnings were "absolutely right".

He warned the government was making a "great mistake" in allowing longer opening hours.

He said: "We have said that the Act should not be brought into effect until binge-drinking has been brought under control.

"I'm afraid we are a very long way from doing that."

'Pugnacious and bellicose'

Judge Charles Harris QC said a high proportion of British people become "pugnacious and bellicose" and "fight at the slightest provocation" after drinking.

He said: "A very large proportion of domestic violence is committed by people who have been drinking - and if they hadn't been drinking so much, they wouldn't be so violent."

The assertion 11pm closing leads to binge-drinking is simply not supported by the evidence
Association of Chief Police Officers

He also denied later opening times would lead to more "continental" drinking habits.

"Continental-style drinking requires continental-style people - people who sit quietly chatting away at cafe tables."

He said British drinking involved "standing up, shouting at each other in crowded bars, trying to consume gallons of beer at a time".

Earlier a report by the Association of Chief Police Officers said there was "a strong link between the increase in disorder and the explosion of late-night premises".

It stated: "One only has to look to popular holiday destinations to see the effect of allowing British youth unrestricted access to alcohol."

Many young people only feel they have had a good night out if they have drunk "far too much", it added.

"The assertion 11pm closing leads to binge-drinking is simply not supported by the evidence."

Police support

Last week Culture Minister James Purnell confirmed the government was pressing ahead with the new laws, saying "police do support us".

After a short period of mayhem I think we will all benefit from an improved drinking culture
Jeremy, Herts

But British Transport Police Deputy Chief Constable Andy Trotter said police believed extending licensing hours could lead to "more binge-drinking and violence".

Mr Trotter, formerly responsible for licensing in the Metropolitan Police, said if police fears were borne out, the government should "turn off the tap" by again limiting access to alcohol.

Nine out of 10 pubs are thought to have applied to stay open an hour or two later - rather than all night as expected.

Will new drink laws lead to violence?
10 Aug 05 |  Have Your Say
Whetting the appetite
19 Jan 05 |  Magazine
Head-to-head: 24-hour drinking
14 Jan 05 |  UK Politics

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific