More fines for drunk women

ON-the-spot fines for drunken females have almost trebled in Suffolk over the past three years, with warnings of worse to come unless radical changes are made.

ON-the-spot fines for drunken females have almost trebled in Suffolk over the past three years, with warnings of worse to come unless radical changes are made.

Since the licensing laws were relaxed in November 2005 to allow longer drinking hours there has been an explosion in fixed penalty notices being handed out to women in the county.

During the 12 months from April 1, 2007 to March 31 last year Suffolk police gave out 407 fines to females - 52 of whom were under the age of 18.

This compares with 141 on-the-spot fines for anti-social behaviour from April 1, 2005 to March 31, 2006, none of which were to girls aged 17 or below.

Among the offences for which a fixed penalty can be given out are being drunk in the street, damaging property and being abusive.

The figures emerged in answer to a Freedom of Information request to Suffolk Police.

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Officers say the surge is a result of how nightlife in town centres has grown over the years and a culture of enforcement rather than tackling the cause of alcohol-related problems by other means than policing.

Simon Aalders, co-ordinator of the Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said there had been an increase in the number of women and youngsters seeking treatment for alcohol problems in the county.

He said: “We know that, in general, women are coming forward with more pronounced alcohol-related problems in terms of the physical consequences of drinking. These women are generally getting younger.”

One of Suffolk's top police officers said he is looking for licensed premises and local authorities to do more to help combat anti-social behaviour in town centres at night.

Assistant chief constable Gary Kitching believes the burden is primarily falling on his officers and that communities need to establish their priorities while enlisting further assistance from the licensees of pubs and clubs.

He also warned of the dangers facing women who drink too much.

Mr Kitching said: “I would say at the root of this is the night-time economy. Policing it has become the priority for us.

“Across a range of crime and disorder which we are seeing is a significant increase from Thursday onwards associated with this. “My experience is fixed penalty notices are best used in the early part of the evening to establish control. The secret for the future is to get ahead of the game and plan what we want our town centres to be like.”

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