One year on from the introduction of the Licensing Act allowing pubs longer opening hours, BOB BRYANT looks at the affect the Act has had in Comet country TOMORROW (Friday) marks the first anniversary of what critics predicted was the dawn of our streets
One year on from the introduction of the Licensing Act allowing pubs longer opening hours, BOB BRYANT looks at the affect the Act has had in Comet country
TOMORROW (Friday) marks the first anniversary of what critics predicted was the dawn of our streets becoming awash with drunks.
November 24 last year was the first day of the new Licensing Act when pubs could open all hours once they had been granted a new licence.
Even though the applications to open longer hours poured in, police, councils and protest groups were quick to object and many magistrates took a conservative line by limiting longer opening hours to weekends only.
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But what a difference a year makes. The predicted mayhem has never emerged and in many cases police and publicans says it has been business as usual.
Across Hertfordshire alcohol related incidents have risen by about 12 per cent between April and August this year compared to the same period last year.
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But this has been put down mainly to the World Cup and the increased use of fixed penalty notices for disorder (PNDs) given to drunks on the street who, in the past, may have just been warned and moved on by officers.
"Using the PND procedure can result in an £80 fine and make it a very expensive night out and these have proved quite effective," said a Herts police spokesman.
"We have established that the peak hours for alcohol related violent crime in the summer of 2005 were between 11pm and midnight. By contrast this summer the peak hours were between midnight and 2am."
Bedfordshire police said they had no figures that reflect any rise in alcohol related crime in the county during the past year.
In the towns of Biggleswade, Sandy and Potton there have been no increased problems, with area police inspector John Maries saying: "Our Pub Watch system has helped but there have been no issues that have concerned us.
"Since the new Licensing Act, pubs have employed better management and this has gone a long way to helping improve problems involving alcohol related crime.
"But the prediction of the Act causing a nightmare has not happened."
Warren Blanchfield, manager of Stevenage Leisure Park, said: "The new Act allowing places that serve alcohol to stay open longer has had no adverse affect whatsoever on security at the park or criminal behaviour.
"The Act has had no impact and those who said it would have been wrong. It has not happened."
Steve Rogers, manager of the Corn Exchange in Hitchin, said: "The Act has had very little effect on us. We stay open until 2am at weekends and drinking is strictly controlled.
"We do not allow customers to get drunk and get out of control. If we feel they have had enough then they are escorted off the premises by our security staff."
Andy Hewitt, landlord of The Proverbial in Stevenage Old Town, said: "Fears there would be binge drinking and trouble have not materialised. We stay open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and the new Act has not made any difference at all."
New landlady at The Hogshead in Letchworth, Veronica Martin, said: "The Act means people are coming out later at night. We stay open until 1am at weekends which means people have the opportunity to still come out later and enjoy a drink."
At The Engine in Baldock, the Act has meant increased trade with landlord Daniel Clark saying: "The Act has meant a change in people's drinking habits because they are now coming out later than they did a year ago.
"This has certainly been beneficial to trade but those who said the Act would herald problems have been wrong. It has been completely the opposite. Having staggered hours has been great and means people are not always hanging around as soon as all the pubs close at 11pm like they did a year ago.