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News - 17 June 2006

New licensing has positive impact

Relaxing licensing hours has not had the ill effects feared and predicted by many. Thanks to the smooth implementation of the new licensing laws and a no-nonsense clamp down by the police serious violent crime in Brighton & Hove is down.

Police figures show that in the year ending March 2006 serious public place violent crime fell by 14%. Cases of grievous bodily harm alone were down by 21%.

The figures are among details contained in two reports on the impact of the licensing changes. The reports will be reviewed by councillors on Brighton & Hove City Council’s licensing committee at a meeting on Thursday, June 22.

The city council took over responsibility for licensing from magistrates last year and new legislation giving flexibility for pubs to open longer came into effect in November.

Since then the council’s licensing team has been working closely with police to enforce the new regulations.

Councillor Jeane Lepper, chair of the licensing committee, said: “It is early days, but the new legislation is settling in well. We are particularly pleased to see the reduction in serious injuries, which show the city is now a safer place to be.

“Relaxing licensing hours has not caused the widespread problems and disorder which some people feared, and we are concerned that some local media coverage has given a misleading impression.

“The vast majority of licensed premises in the city are well run and responsibly managed and the council and police will continue to take firm action against any establishments which cause problems.”

The reports also give details of how:

  • Trading Standards and police are targeting off licences and pubs to prevent sales of alcohol to underage youngsters.
  • A ‘Best Bar None’ award scheme has been launched by the police, council and other partners to provide an incentive for pubs, clubs and bars to raise their standards and provide a safe environment for customers.
  • Police are taking a much more proactive approach to deal with ‘yobbish’ anti-social behaviour, to prevent it escalating to more serious offences, and handing out on the spot penalties, for example, for being drunk in a public place or threatening or abusive behaviour.
  • More than 40 fixed penalty notices have been issued for licensing offences, mainly for selling alcohol to under 18s; three pubs have been closed down under the Licensing Act and a further 28 pubs closed on voluntarily to avoid enforced closure.
  • With summer on the way, and more people drinking in pub gardens and windows being opened, the council’s licensing team is writing to all licensees in the city to stress the importance of being good neighbours.
  • Licensees are being urged to reduce negative impact on their neighbours by keeping noise down and ensuring customers leave quietly.

Councillor Lepper said: “We are certainly not complacent. We know the summer is going to be a busy time, but the licensing act gives us greater powers to take action and respond to residents’ concern and we will not hesitate to clampdown strongly when necessary.”

Brighton & Hove City Council is one of ten councils involved in the Department of Culture, Media and Sports’ review of licensing guidance. Licensing minister James Purnell has cited the council as one of the best licensing authorities in the country and praised staff for the smooth introduction of the new licensing regulations.

Read related items on:
Retail, pubs, clubs and restaurants
Anti-social behaviour
Local scene
Brighton & Hove City Council
Police, Sussex

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