Memorandum submitted by The Police Federation of England and Wales

Background

1 The Police Federation of England and Wales welcomes this inquiry by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee into the Licensing Act 2003. As the staff association that represents the interests of 140,000 police officers, from the ranks of Constable to Chief Inspector, we bring together views on the welfare and efficiency of the force, and take responsibility for their presentation to both Government and other opinion formers. For more information about the Police Federation please visit www.polfed.org.

2 Whilst we welcome the opportunity to submit evidence on a range of topics, we do not feel it is our place to comment on all of the subjects so we have limited our response to those areas we feel are of most relevance.

 

Has there been any change in levels of public nuisance, numbers of night-time offences or perceptions of public safety since the Act came into force?

3 The Federation does not hold statistics on the number of night-time offences recorded by forces in England and Wales (in fact we are unaware of any centrally held data of this nature). It is therefore difficult for us to provide empirical evidence of a correlation between the introduction of the Licensing Act of 2003 and an increase in public nuisance or drink-related offences caused during the night. However we are aware that the recently produced Home Office report[1] on the early impact of the Act concludes that there are "no clear signs yet that the abolition of a standard closing time has significantly reduced problems of crime and disorder."

4 We also receive feedback from our members who work on the frontline teams that police the night time economy. What is evident from that feedback is the detrimental effect that the Act is having on an already overstretched police service.

5 It is our understanding that one of the key motivations behind introducing the new legislation - via the abolition of set licensing hours - was to do away with the focal point for public disorder which had traditionally been closing time. But it is evident that this has not been achieved. The Home Office report states that "The scale of change in licensing hours has been both variable and modest: while the majority of pubs have extended their hours, most of these extensions have been short." This certainly chimes in with comments that our members have made about the persistence of the closing-time flashpoint for potential trouble; however this might now be an hour later than was previously the case.

6 In addition, the greater flexibility which was introduced by the Act has resulted in a more staggered series of closing times which stretch later into the night/early morning. In the majority of inner city areas this means maintaining a response shift at a higher resilience level (maximum number of officers available to answer calls for service) for a longer period of time. As a result, some officers are now working later shifts. For example, in one force an "afternoon" shift now stretches from 6pm until 4am. Aside from the obvious detrimental effect to the individual officer, this also has a knock-on effect of stretching the resources available to other members of the public that need assistance to the absolute limits. All too frequently our members cannot attend to emergency calls because they are tied up with intervening in pub fights or drunken street brawls.

7 These problems have been further compounded by the dawn of the "super pub" - very large drinking establishments (with capacities in the region of 1,000 people) that are very difficult to secure and police effectively without a significant drain on police resources. It would appear that the Act has done little to reverse the trend which has seen an increase in such establishments.

8 It is clear then that the Act is yet to achieve its two main aims - to encourage more responsible attitudes to drinking and to reduce drink related crime and disorder in town centres. This is not surprising as the consumption of alcohol remains a fundamental part of most cultural aspects of British life and drinking to excess remains to be seen as laudable and to be encouraged by a significant proportion of the population (not to mention the major contribution that the taxation of alcohol makes to the Treasury's coffers). It is our belief that more action needs to be taken to eradicate the cheap deals, "happy hours" and "two-for-one" promotions prevalent in many pubs, clubs, supermarkets and corner shops which encourage binge drinking and contribute to the persistence of alcohol abuse among the young and underage population.

9 For the foreseeable future it would appear that the primary responsibility for dealing with the consequences of excessive drinking will remain with the police service. What we would call for is an honest assessment by the Government of the impact of the increasing night-time economy - fuelled by alcohol consumption - on the resources and capabilities of the police service and to ensure that forces are given sufficient resources to enable their officers to ensure the safety of themselves and the public whilst complying with health and safety regulations and working-time legislation.

 

What has been the impact of the Act on the performance of live music?

10 We have no comment to make. This is a matter for local authorities and music industry.

What has been the financial impact of the Act on sporting and social clubs?

11 This is not an area for us to comment on as we only deal with those who break the law.

Whether the Act has led, or looks likely to lead, to a reduction in bureaucracy for those applying for licences under the new regime and for those administering it?

12 We believe that it has simply moved (and increased) the bureaucracy to the local authority. The police have no less work that is alcohol-related.

Whether the anticipated financial savings for relevant industries will be realised?

13 We have no comment to make other than that we think it would be very unlikely that the police service will benefit.

 

Other areas of interest?

We would be interested in any research that may be undertaken to see if the licensing of the security industry (door staff in particular) has been successful in achieving its aims. It is apparent to us that in many towns and cities it has become a growth industry for criminals who have little to fear as a result of legitimising their methods of generating extortion income.

 

September 2008

 

 

 

 



[1] Research Report 04: "The impact of the Licensing Act 2003 on levels of crime

and disorder: an evaluation"; Mike Hough, Gillian Hunter, Jessica Jacobson, Stefano Cossalter

ICPR, King's College London; Home Office March 2008; ISBN 978-1-84726-612-5