Page last updated at 20:37 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 21:37 UK

Law chiefs' call for booze curbs

Teenager drinking alcohol
Judge Cottle says 40% of cases before his court are inked to alcohol

A senior judge and Devon and Cornwall's police chief have spoken out against Britain's drinking culture.

Judge Graham Cottle called for tighter licensing laws to combat "spiralling drink-fuelled violence" that has turned city centres into "fear zones".

Chief Constable Stephen Otter argued current laws were "broadly sufficient".

However, he said local authorities needed to take action to help stop people getting "bladdered" on the streets.

Judge Cottle said the rise of alcohol-related disorder was the "most worrying development that there has been over the past 10 years".

The higher the level of noise, the more people drink
Chief Constable Stephen Otter

He said licensing laws had been "relaxed to the point where effectively, there aren't any".

The judge, who is based at Exeter Crown Court, estimated about 40% of cases before his court were now linked to alcohol, and incidents had risen "both in terms of frequency and severity".

He believed the solution lay in tightening licensing laws, and in working with police and other agencies to change the culture of binge-drinking.

But Mr Otter said he would like to see police and local authorities working together to address the issue of loud, "standing only" bars which he said encouraged excessive drinking.

Planning 'vision'

"Recent research has shown the higher the level of noise, the more people drink," he said.

"The issue for me is more about trying to change this culture where people go out and get bladdered and fall down in the street."

Mr Otter said the responsibility lay with police, statutory agencies and club and bar owners.

"We are not saying we are anti-drink, it is about responsible and safe drinking," he added.

The police chief said local authorities should ask themselves what their vision for their town or city was in relation to its entertainment, and the type of drinking premises.

Some places, he said, had a "good grip" on the situation through licensing and planning.


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