Crime not affected by 24-hour drinking

ALCOHOL-fuelled disorder has largely remained at the same levels in East Anglia since the 24-drinking laws were introduced, a Government study has revealed.

ALCOHOL-fuelled disorder has largely remained at the same levels in East Anglia since the 24-drinking laws were introduced, a Government study has revealed.

But police in Suffolk say changes to the licensing act have spread booze-related crime over a longer period, with incidents occurring much later than before.

The Home Office's study reviews the early impact of 24-drinking laws, which came into effect in November 2005, in the East of England, Yorkshire and the Humber regions.

The research analysed six unidentified market towns in the East of England to see whether alcohol-related crime, such as wounding, common assault and affray, had gone up or down.

Results showed there were only nine fewer disorder offences committed across the six towns during December 2005 and May 2006 compared to December 2004 and May 2005, before the laws were brought in.

Half of the towns experienced a slight drop in offences while the other half experienced a slight increase.

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The Home Office said the figures showed there was no clear evidence the increase in alcohol-related crime and disorder that had been feared had materialised since drinking laws were implemented.

It said the main change experienced in some towns was in the shift in pattern, with peaks periods moving later into the night.

Last week the Government admitted that nationally 24-hour licensing had driven up violent crime in the early hours - but insisted there was no evidence of the widespread problems feared.

It said a first official review of the law showed it was achieving “mixed” results.

Police in Ipswich said alcohol related crime has continued in the town, despite later drinking hours, and was not confined to the young.

Pc Andrew Blacker, of Ipswich police's licensing and support unit, said men aged 50 and above had been detained for late-night disorder.

“It's fair to say alcohol-related incidents are continuing and we have plans in line to try and not only resolve the issues of the night-time economies but also in terms of addressing the issues of people binge-drinking in a way that will prevent them from following that course again,” he said.

“The statistics for Ipswich over the past 12 months show there has been seasonal variation. There is an increase as you approach the festive season and an inevitable decline afterwards to a more stable level.

“We are not comfortable with any disorder related to alcohol and we're looking to take big steps to resolve those issues in line with Nightsafe.

“It (drinking laws) has spread the timing of the violence. It's gone on for longer because of the drinking habits of a section of the public.

“People have been detained for disorder at 50 years old in Ipswich town centre. Very few are below the age of 18. It's a good spread of people who are arrested for drink-related incidents in the town centre.”

The police officer said resources were targeted to cover key times when the risk of disorder was highest.

“The potential is wherever there is a large movement from one drinking environment, even if it's moving on to another drinking environment, there is always the risk of disorder at that point.

“We try and ensure our units and resources are in the best position at the best times.”

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