Page last updated at 10:03 GMT, Monday, 31 August 2009 11:03 UK

Courts get 'booze Asbo' powers

Person swigging from bottle
Drinkers could be banned from pubs or off-licences for up to two years

People in England and Wales who commit crimes or behave anti-socially while drunk could now face a Drinking Banning Order - or "booze Asbo".

Under powers coming into force on Monday, police and councils can seek an order on anyone aged 16 and over.

Magistrates can then ban them from pubs, bars, off-licences and certain areas for up to two years. Anyone who breaches the order faces a £2,500 fine.

But critics say the measure is a gimmick that fails to tackle the issue.

Alcohol charities said the orders could work as part of a number of measures.

Culture change

Home Office minister Alan Campbell said crime and disorder linked to alcohol cost the UK billions of pounds every year.

"These orders will stop those people who are well known to the authorities, licensees and often the communities where they live, from ruining lives - and will make them face up to their destructive behaviour," he added.

It will be jelly bean Asbos for sugared-up kids next. Surely it's time to call last orders on endless new legislation
Isabella Sankey, Liberty

Jeremy Beadles, the chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association which represents companies in the industry, said "tough enforcement" against offenders is "critical if we are to change the culture around problem drinking".

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, gave the orders a more cautious welcome.

"Policing of alcohol-related crime must go hand in hand with more robust measures to curb irresponsible and illegal sales and improved treatment pathways for dependent drinkers," he said.

Metropolitan Police Commander Simon O'Brien, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on alcohol licensing, said the orders "add to the toolbox of tactics" in tackling drunken and persistent offenders.

Alcohol pricing

But civil liberties group Liberty dismissed the new measure as gimmicks that did not get to the root cause of the problem.

Policy director Isabella Sankey said: "How many times can you spin a new 'crackdown' without tackling the causes of offending behaviour?

"It will be jelly bean Asbos for sugared-up kids next. Surely it's time to call last orders on endless new legislation."

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, believes the government needs to end the availability of cheap alcohol.

"The biggest single driver of health-related harm and, indeed, criminal harm from alcohol is the availability and that is being driven by price."

Rehabilitation courses

John Thornhill, chairman of the Magistrates Association, said he was "not happy that it will work".

He added: "We are not satisfied that these will work as effectively as perhaps some of the Asbos have. Clearly the issue is about tackling why it is these people have an alcohol dependency.

Some offenders may be referred to a course to address their drinking, and if successfully completed, could see the length of the order reduced.

The participant, not the government, is expected to cover the costs of the Positive Behaviour Intervention Courses, from £120 to £250.

In Scotland, Asbos can be used to prohibit people from drinking in the streets - the first such orders were imposed on four people in Dumfries in 2006.

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