In 2005, the controversial reform of licensing laws in England and Wales (different laws apply in Scotland) came into force, in which some pubs, clubs and other places can apply for the right to sell alcohol around the clock. Many critics of the new laws claimed their introduction will lead to an increase in drink-related crime on our streets.
Several highly-publicised campaigns by led by protest groups and even some national newspapers failed to stop the new laws. They argue that the excess drinking culture of Britain is different to the so-called ‘civilised cafe culture’ (if that exists) in the rest of Europe. One has to walk around any town centre most evenings to find police and hospitals trying to cope with the huge tide of violence.
One of the first acts of Gordon Brown’s reign of Prime Minister was to introduce a review into the new laws. The report published today (PDF) gives a rather mixed view of the situation on the ground, but then, who believes what the government says these days?
According to reports, only around four per cent of premises have applied for 24-hour opening, and only around 470 pub, bars and nightclubs currently open 24 hours at present…. which just leaves the vast majority of these premises which have steadfastly or reluctantly stuck to their old opening hours, mainly because of many of their local communities are using the laws to object to them trading longer.
Whatever your view, it still amazes some people why mostly intelligent adults in Britain continue to drink to excess and cause violence on our streets. Officialdom, from politicians and police, to councils and hospitals, seem at present unable to cope. Do we need to wait for an even bigger crisis to start before they even begin to act?