Police hitting louts in the pocket
POLICE are hitting louts in the pocket after handing out a record number of fines to people responsible for alcohol-fuelled trouble in Suffolk.Almost 1,000 fixed penalty fines were given to revellers for booze-fuelled disorder over the last year - an increase of 50% on the previous 12 months - amounting to a total of £76,530.
By Danielle Nuttall
POLICE are hitting louts in the pocket after handing out a record number of fines to people responsible for alcohol-fuelled trouble in Suffolk.
Almost 1,000 fixed penalty fines were given to revellers for booze-fuelled disorder over the last year - an increase of 50% on the previous 12 months - amounting to a total of £76,530.
And officers last night said the fines helped to cut disorder without drawing them away from foot patrol in order to carry out lots of paperwork.
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A total of 969 fixed penalty notices were issued for disorder in Suffolk during 2005-6 compared to 646 the previous year.
Of those fines handed out in 2005-6, 33 were £50 fines while 936 were £80 fines.
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Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs) were introduced by the Home Office in 2001 to tackle low level anti-social behaviour and to cut bureaucracy in dealing with these offences.
PNDs can be issued to anyone over the age of 16 for offences such as drunk and disorderly behaviour in a public place, behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to others, selling alcohol to a drunken person or the sale of alcohol to a person under 18.
They can also be issued for retail theft under £200, breach of a fireworks curfew and destroying or damaging property up to the value of £500.
Chief Inspector Alan Caton, sector commander at Ipswich, said the large rise in PNDs issued last year coincided with Suffolk Constabulary's Lock 'Em Inn campaign targeting alcohol-related disorder.
The crackdown was launched in November 2005 for eight weeks and was aimed at reducing alcohol related offences over the Christmas and New Year period by stepping up patrols outside the county's nightspots.
“Part of the method of policing was to deal with people early on in the evening committing minor offences of disorder, either arresting them or giving them a fixed penalty notice, and preventing them from committing assaults much later in the evening,” he said.
“They (PNDs) are from a police perspective enabling us to issue swift proactive justice on the streets. It doesn't change our police powers. We can still arrest people if we need to.
“It reduces the time officers spend at court. It frees them up so they can return to duties and they can obviously get back out on patrol.”
Ch Insp Caton said fixed penalty notices were not a “soft touch” approach. “It's not like you get it one night you will get it again. It has to be a deterrent. You cannot continue to get fixed penalty notices. If you have been given it one week you will not get it again,” he said.
“When the circumstances are appropriate it's another tool for the police service to use in tackling anti-social behaviour. It's just another tool in the box. We have found it can prove to be an effective deterrent. It is certainly not a soft touch approach.”