Page last updated at 12:40 GMT, Monday, 31 August 2009 13:40 UK

New 'booze Asbos' come under fire

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

New powers to impose Drinking Banning Orders - dubbed "booze Asbos" - on people who behave anti-socially while drunk have come under fire.

From Monday, police and councils in England and Wales can seek such an order on anyone aged 16 and over.

Offenders must stay away from pubs, bars, off-licences and named areas for up to two years or face a £2,500 fine.

However, the Magistrates Association said trying to ban people from all licensed premises was "nonsense".

Its chairman John Thornhill said: "We are not satisfied that these will work as effectively as perhaps some of the Asbos have.

"If you try banning [offenders] from all the pubs in the town, who is going to tell all the pubs in the town? Many of the supermarkets now have a licence to sell alcohol. It's going to be nonsense really."

He added that many offenders simply ignored Asbo conditions.

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

Other critics branded the measure a "gimmick" that failed to tackle the issue, although it enjoyed support from some alcohol charities.

The government insists the orders will ensure that irresponsible drinkers face "very real consequences".

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.

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.

But shadow home affairs minister James Brokenshire said they would not be enforced.

He claimed powers to act against outlets repeatedly caught selling alcohol to children had been used only once in three years.

'Tough enforcement'

Isabella Sankey, policy director, for civil liberties group Liberty 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."

Jeremy Beadles, the chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association which represents companies in the industry, said "tough enforcement" of the powers was critical.

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said the government needed to end the availability of cheap alcohol to limit the health and criminal effects of alcohol.

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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