Police will fight 24-hour drinking bids

PUBS wanting to open later will face fierce resistance from police unless landlords can prove it will not lead to more booze-fuelled violence, Suffolk's police chief has warned.

By Danielle Nuttall

PUBS wanting to open later will face fierce resistance from police unless landlords can prove it will not lead to more booze-fuelled violence, Suffolk's police chief has warned.

Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter said the battle against violent crime remained the force's top priority and insisted it would put up a tough fight against licensees aiming to use new laws to extend drinking time, if it would lead to further disruption.

In an exclusive interview with the East Anglian Daily Times, Mr McWhirter said he did not foresee 24-hour drinking in Suffolk, and pledged to protect people from alcohol-related aggression in every way possible.

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He said: "Violent crime is top priority at the present time. With the new licensing laws coming in clearly we need to ensure we protect communities.

"I don't anticipate Suffolk will see 24-hour drinking. If we feel somebody applying for a licence is not going to run it properly then we will object fairly strongly.

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"If it will cause disruption to the local community we will object on those grounds as well. I believe strongly if we have an objection to someone extending their licence we will make it forcibly.

"My concern is that we already have to spread our resources thinly from 6am until after 3am. If we find we have clubs shutting at 4am we have to keep that number of officers on.

"I will not have any extra resources to do this policing therefore resources will be taken away from something else.

"Residents and people living around licensed premises want a bit of peace and quiet. We have got to help to do that."

The Government's Licensing Act 2003 is set to come into force today and will give local authorities the ability to grant licences for 24-hour drinking hours.

The new licensing laws are aimed at combating drink-related disorder and it is hoped allowing nightclubs and pubs to stay open all day will stop drinkers spilling out onto the streets at the same time.

Mr McWhirter said early indications from landlords suggested they were not in favour of all night drinking, which he added was good news considering the 9.4% rise in violent crime seen in Suffolk to the end of December.

"It happened in the late 1980s and we're seeing it again now, violent crime is going up," he said.

"We are seeing continued growth in the night time economy in our towns, with people behaving badly while under the influence of drink, and we are working hard with licensees and local councils to try to stop some of the factors that go into this.

"Some of the factors that were really worrying us were buy one get one free, drink as much as you can for £10 and people sloshing alcohol around in small spaces. The industry has been helping in relation to that.

"We have been working in all our towns to ensure Nightsafe and other schemes are working together to try and reduce the violence that happens."

Despite the rise in violent crime, Suffolk is performing excellently in other areas and remains the safest county in England with overall crime down on previous years.

"When I came here, Suffolk was doing really well and it's very hard to take over an organisation at the top of the league. It's like Chelsea and Manchester United. Trying to keep there is the hard bit," said Mr McWhirter.

"The good news is overall crime is down just under 2%, between April and December, domestic burglary is down 23.9% on the previous year, which was already low.

"Other burglary including business premises, garages, is down 18%. Vehicle crime is down 7.9%, and robbery is down 7.9%.

"Last year people told us they were feeling very safe where they lived. To get 55% of people feeling very safe is pretty good going.

"We've more people recognising local officers and 94% of 999 calls in January were answered in the target time of ten seconds.

"The force has got good strategic direction. We have maintained that good record and we are doing really well. I'm really proud of what we've achieved."

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