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Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2006, 06:49 GMT
Drink laws have 'little impact'
A bar
Pubs have been able to apply for longer hours for a year
Two Welsh police forces say later licensing hours for pubs and clubs have not created the problems some opponents had predicted.

A year ago the Licensing Act, allowing premises to apply for longer opening hours, raised fears of increased binge drinking and trouble on the streets.

But both North Wales Police and Gwent Police said disorder has not increased.

Health officials also said the law has had "little impact" on hospital accident and emergency departments.

Laws allowing pubs, clubs and shops in Wales and England to sell alcohol for longer if they gained a licence were introduced on 24 November, 2005.

I was one of many with the apprehension that we would be inundated - happily it did not happen
Aruni Sen, Wrexham Maelor Hospital

Almost 5,000 licence extensions were granted in Wales. But just 60 premises, most of them supermarkets, were granted 24-hour licences.

The changes also handed police extra powers to tackle drink-related problems and to close nuisance premises.

Some police forces, including the Metropolitan Police, expressed concern resources would be "stretched", particularly in the early hours of the morning.

Parts of the Licensing Act were opposed by the Conservatives with some Labour MPs also voting against its implementation.

But one year on, two of Wales' four police forces and two NHS trusts have said the impact of extended hours has been less than was feared.

Drinker
There were fears over increased disorder with longer hours

A spokesperson for Gwent Police said: "The anniversary of the implementation of the Licensing Act has not produced the negative impact on our communities that was feared.

"The extended time available for customers to disperse has proved the best asset and eased the pressures and conflicts that previously arose when large groups of people hit the streets at the same time."

North Wales Police said it was "still far too early" to judge whether the new laws had been a success, adding they were comparing statistics with the previous 12 months.

But the force said that "initial anecdotal evidence" from officers indicated the dispersal of people from pubs and clubs had been spread over a longer time period.

Deputy chief constable Clive Wolfendale said: "The figures are showing around a 2% fall in alcohol-related disorder - however, it is too early to confirm if this is a trend.

"The biggest impact is that it is now much busier in the small hours, creating a new and significant challenge for us in relation to how we deploy resources."

'Assaults reduced'

Two of Wales' NHS trusts said there had been little impact on their accident and emergency departments as a result of the changes.

Michael McCabe, clinical director of A&E services at Swansea NHS Trust, said: "We haven't noticed any adverse changes as a result of the new drinking laws.

"We think the serious incidents in the city like glassings and serious assaults have reduced.

"The licensing regulations also give the police much greater powers. They can monitor licensed premises, and that is having an impact too."

North East Wales NHS Trust said it did not "see any more drunk patients than before".

Aruni Sen, consultant in emergency medicine Wrexham Maelor Hospital, said: "In the last 12 months, this extended hour rule has made very little, if any, impact on our departmental activity.

"I was one of many with the apprehension that we would be inundated - happily it did not happen."


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16 Nov 05 |  UK Politics

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