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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 August 2005, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Licensing laws spark mixed response
Some 600 judges in England and Wales believe relaxed licensing laws will lead to more violent crime. The government says new laws will reduce binge-drinking and crime. Industry bodies and pressure groups give their opinions.


The BBPA represents the interests of the beer and pub sectors, but also claims to play a vital role in the fight against alcohol misuse.

Rob Hayward, BBPA chief executive, says fears surrounding a 24-hour drinking culture are overstated.

Applications for extended hours are generally for an extra hour or so on a Friday and Saturday night, from community pubs, and not from city centre locations.

The BBPA supports the beer and pubs industries

Scotland has recently reviewed its licensing hours which are much more flexible than in England and Wales. Neither the police nor the judges asked for a return to English hours, let alone something more draconian.

Every New Year's Eve, for the last three years, flexible hours have been tried and tested. The result has been less disorder, and fewer problems than on the average Friday night.

The Association of Chief Police Officers supported the idea of flexible, not 24-hour, drinking when the White Paper on the licensing legislation was out for consultation.

Society has a problem and we will need to work on this together. However, the vast majority of people enjoy drinking responsibly.


Rugby recently piloted a scheme where CCTV footage of drunken behaviour was shown on big screens in the town centre.

Robin Richter, managing director of the Rugby Town Centre Company, says flooding the streets with police is the best way of tackling alcohol-fuelled violence.

We have a culture of timed drinking which tends to get people drinking to beat a deadline. They have never had that on the continent. So I doubt we will suddenly get a continental drinking culture.

A youth lying in a street after urinating and falling over
This youth was seen urinating in a street before falling over

The question is, will it make a difference. I personally don't think it will make a huge difference at all. People will drink as much as they always have done.

But I don't think it will change things for the better. I agree with the police and judges that alcohol and violence are inextricably linked. Clearly, as alcohol consumption goes up, the rate of violent crime goes up.

Rugby is like every town centre - we have got a problem. But we are working with the police to tackle it. They flood the town centre every Friday and Saturday night and they have had a significant effect.


Set up in 1989 by several drinks manufacturers and breweries, the Portman Group is charged with promoting responsible drinking.

Its communications director, Jim Minton, says the government needs to work on changing the culture of getting drunk.

There are many problems associated with excessive drinking, and we would agree with the judges and the police that it is the culture of drinking to get drunk that needs to be tackled.

Drunk girl
Police oppose 24-hour opening

The government needs to promote responsible attitudes to drinking with the same vigour as they have campaigned against drink-driving over a sustained period.

We work with a number of police forces across the country in campaigns to tackle drunkenness and anti-social behaviour.

We strongly support them taking a tough line on individuals who commit offences after drinking too much, and on pubs and bars that serve drunks or encourage anti-social behaviour."


The Conservative-controlled council is the UK's largest licensing authority.

Councillor Frixos Tombolis, deputy cabinet member for licensing, says the government needs to re-think its policies.

We have been warning the government for the last three years that relaxing the drinking laws will not lead to a continental cafe culture but an increase in binge drinking with the inevitable associated violence.

With the UK's most senior judges and police officers now clearly laying out the likely consequences the Government must listen and announce that it will review the new laws as a matter of urgency and on a regular basis.

If necessary, it should rescind its unwanted decision to allow 24 drinking.


Geethika Jayatilaka, director of policy and public affairs at Alcohol Concern, praises the thinking behind the new laws, but says the effects will be damaging.

Given the prevailing drinking culture in Britain, extended licensing hours are more likely to turn our town centres into Faliraki than Florence.

In theory, the aims behind the Licensing Act are worthy - reducing crime and disorder and tackling the binge-drinking culture - but at its heart the licensing Act is a de-regulatory act. In practice these changes may well increase crime and disorder rather than curb it - putting more pressure on police and struggling emergency services.

The government seriously needs to re-consider how the new licensing provisions will impact on their strategy to resolve the multiple problems caused by excess drinking in Britain today.

Drunks film warning to revellers
06 Aug 05 |  Coventry/Warwickshire

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