Binge drinkers' festive strife

Binge drinkers fuelled one of the busiest nights of the year for emergency services in East Anglia after a spate of disturbing New Year incidents including one in which a police officer suffered life-threatening head injuries.

Binge drinkers fuelled one of the busiest nights of the year for emergency services in East Anglia after a spate of disturbing New Year incidents including one in which a police officer suffered life-threatening head injuries.

Paramedics in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire were called to 1,328 incidents over the New Year holiday including 99 classed as assault, stabbing or gunshot. Norfolk saw the most call-outs with 516 over the two-day period.

In the most serious case, a 31-year-old off-duty police officer based in Norwich was found unconscious with severe head injuries after going to the aid of the victim of a pub brawl. His condition has since improved and was last night described as "serious but stable".

Extra police were deployed across the region and officers said they were satisfied incidents had been kept to a minimum. However, there were a number of worrying attacks.

A 33-year-old man was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, after being found unconscious and bleeding from the head following an attack in the centre of Fakenham. He is not expected to be discharged for four days. A 25-year-old man has been arrested.

Three brothers were arrested in East Tuddenham, near Dereham, after two police officers suffered minor injuries when they attended a "drunken punch-up" at the village hall.

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In King's Lynn, four men and a woman were arrested after a fight involving more than 20 people in Stonegate Street at 2am on New Year's Day. A 51-year-old man was stabbed at a party in Thetford.

Excessive alcohol consumption was also a problem - one 15-year-old girl was admitted to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital after drinking three-quarters of a bottle of vodka, a bottle of wine and smoking cannabis.

Staff at the N&N's accident and emergency department dealt with 1,042 people between December 28 and January 1 - a 13pc increase on the same period last year.

And the SOS bus project in Norwich, which provides care for people on nights out in the city, reported one of the busiest nights in its history, with 12 people requiring its care.

Insp Peter Walsh, responsible for public order and licensing matters in Norwich, insisted festivities in the city centre passed relatively smoothly. He said: "Officers noted a good atmosphere and the many people out enjoying themselves in the pubs and clubs generally behaved responsibly.

"There were several drink-related incidents but officers were quick to make arrests where necessary before disorder developed and there were no significant incidents in the city centre. It was clear that a few people had over-indulged and placed themselves at risk."

Police are appealing for anyone who was at the Rivergarden Pub in Norwich's Yarmouth Road on New Year's Eve to contact them after two men, including the off-duty police officer, were seriously assaulted outside the premises. After 11pm, an altercation involving several people started in the pub near the toilets. Door supervisors removed several people. The man who had been assaulted left the pub with his girlfriend and was attacked again in the car park.

The police officer went outside to check on the first victim. Just before midnight he was found unconscious in the car park. He had been badly beaten around the head and face.

Four men have been arrested but police are still keen to hear from anyone who was at the pub, anyone who was hurt but has not yet reported it and anyone who has photos on mobile phones or cameras.