The Home Office has identified alcohol as one of six "drivers" of crime, to be addressed as part of a new 'Modern Crime Prevention Strategy'. The document sets out evidence of the link between alcohol and violent crime, along with what action the Home Office, law enforcement and the public and voluntary sectors will take to reduce alcohol-related crime.
Licensing law expert Christopher Rees-Gay of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the strategy put forward a "three-pronged approach" to crime prevention, consisting of a combination of improving local intelligence, establishing effective local partnerships and equipping the police and local authorities with the right powers to prevent and address alcohol-related incidents.
"Thankfully the strategy recognises that personal responsibility when it comes to decisions individuals take about excessive drinking, committing acts of violence or disorder is as important as those actions taken by those involved in the overall management of the night time economy," he said.
"Of the 'three-pronged approach', it is the final prong that it the most interesting as it could be argued that the authorities and policy already have a vast array of enforcement powers at their disposal to deal with problem premises. I do agree that preventing alcohol-related crime and disorder requires 'concerted action by all with a stake in the successful operation of the evening and night time economy' - it is, therefore, interesting to note that the majority of measures put forward in the final prong focus on the licensee, rather than the offending individual," he said.
The strategy document was published to coincide with last week's International Crime and Policing Conference. It is structured around six issues identified as the 'drivers of crime': opportunity, character, profit, drugs, alcohol and the effectiveness of the criminal justice system.
The document identified alcohol and pubs as important to the UK economy and a significant part of community life. With this in mind, action to address alcohol-related crime and disorder should be based on allowing people to "go into the evening and night time economy to socialise, eat or enjoy the entertainment their town centre has to offer without the fear of becoming a victim of crime".
As part of the strategy, the government intends to take action to improve the "amount and quality" of evidence available to local authorities when taking decisions on individual licensing applications, enforcement activity and use of policing and other resources. This will include publishing information about where alcohol-related crime and disorder is occurring online at police.uk; encouraging the police to share data with local authorities and businesses; and encouraging licensing authorities to share information about individuals and premises that have had their licences revoked with their neighbours.
It also intends to set up a new round of 'Local Alcohol Action Areas', and to continue to support industry initiatives such as Pubwatch, Purple Flag and the Proof of Age Standards Scheme. The industry will also be expected to "extend" these schemes and make them more public facing. It will also improve the 'late night levy' which local authorities can opt to impose to cover the cost of policing, and will give Police and Crime Commissioners the right to request that certain local authorities consult on introducing it where necessary.