Drinking ban under fire
HUMAN rights champions have criticised plans for "sweeping legislation" which could outlaw a glass of wine with a picnic in one of the region's parks.A ban prohibiting alcohol in Bury St Edmunds' historic core already exists, but new legislation could give police greater powers to confiscate bottles and cans, and even arrest the people.
HUMAN rights champions have criticised plans for "sweeping legislation" which could outlaw a glass of wine with a picnic in one of the region's parks.
A ban prohibiting alcohol in Bury St Edmunds' historic core already exists, but new legislation could give police greater powers to confiscate bottles and cans, and even arrest the people.
The legislation, which officials say is designed to protect shoppers from lager-swilling louts, would cover the centre of town and include the famed Abbey Gardens - a popular spot for picnickers.
Currently, drinkers can be moved on after they have been asked to put their cans and bottles away. However, those enforcing the by-law cannot take alcohol away from the owner.
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"The act gives police better powers to confiscate cans, whether they are open or not, and dispose of the contents," said Frank Warby, chairman of the St Edmundsbury Crime and Disorder Partnership.
"It can also be an arrestable offence. We want to make Bury a decent place for people to come and shop, so they don't face lager louts - who can make things uncomfortable. Louts hanging about outside shops with a beer in their hand can also lead to anti-social behaviour.
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"You may wonder why, because of yobs with cans of lager, you cannot have a glass of wine with a meal in the Abbey Gardens while watching the ducks - but the law is the law."
Mr Warby said the rule could be adopted by the council by the end of the month, but added it would not affect coffee shops or pubs with street vending permission.
He said audiences at open-air events, held in the Abbey Gardens each year as part of the Bury Festival, would still be given the opportunity to drink as Bury-based brewer Greene King, which organise the concerts, would be given a licence.
But civil rights group Liberty described the possible move as "showing the danger of sweeping legislation."
"Whilst we have no major problems with bans on drinking in public areas, most people would accept that it has to be sensible and proportioned," said Barry Hugill, of Liberty.
"This shows the danger of sweeping legislation. I cannot see any justification for this. Everyone knows the difference between someone having a glass of wine with a picnic in the gardens and drunk lying on a park bench who is causing a nuisance.
"Additional powers are not needed. The police already have powers to act if people are behaving in a rowdy way. This seems far too sweeping."
St Edmundsbury Borough Council is expected to discuss the adoption of the legislation, which is a new provision under the 2001 Criminal Justice and Police Act, later this year.
A spokesman for the council said: "The provision under the 2001 Criminal Justice and Police Act would give the police more powers to stop people from drinking.
"At this point in time, we have not adopted the provision under this act and the current by-law still stands."