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News - 17 August 2005

Death and disturbance feared as introduction of 24 hour drinking draws near.

Opposition political parties both locally and nationally are calling for a rethink on pub opening hours as the November start date draws near.

Data from the Office of National Statistics has revealed that the UK death toll from alcohol abuse has increased by just over 18% in the last five years with some areas showing even greater individual increases.

The south-east had the second highest toll in 2004 with 842 deaths, exceeded only by the north west with 1,179. Alcohol Concern has declared the figures deeply worrying.

If deaths where alcohol related violence are included, e.g. attacks and car crashes the figures are far higher with an indicative figure of between 15,000 to 20,000 deaths per annum.

A separate report by Martin Plant of the University of West England highlights that violent assaults and drink driving and absenteeism from work have soared in other countries where drinking laws have been relaxed. He points out that, in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik restrictions on licensing hours were actually reimposed after an increase in drink driving of 80%.

Last week circuit court judge Charles Harris dismissed the proposed changes in the law as being “close to lunacy” and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has highlighted a strong link between the increase in antisocial behaviour and the explosion in late night premises.

Meanwhile in Brighton & Hove a sense of panic has gripped some neighbourhoods as applications to extend opening hours of local pubs are becoming known, with some forming residents associations specifically to oppose licensing applications. The Brighton & Hove Green Party has condemned the change in the law predicting an increase in public dissatisfaction with anti-social behaviour

"So far, the majority of city centre residents are unaware that many city centre pubs will be serving alcohol later - some up to 2 AM," warned Cllr Keith Taylor, Convenor of the Greens.

"While this may not cause too much disturbance in commercial areas, in neighbourhoods such as North Laine and Hanover real problems could result."

In parliament the Liberal Democrats have called for a re-think on the strategy.

Read related items on:
Retail, pubs, clubs and restaurants
Anti-social behaviour
National policy
Green Party
Liberal Democrats
Taylor, Keith

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