New drink laws cut crime - claim

Round-the-clock drinking laws have been hailed for cutting violent attacks and drunken assaults in Norfolk. Chief constable Carole Howlett - who initially had reservations about the new laws - said: “The message seems to be so far so good.

Round the clock drinking laws have been hailed for cutting violent attacks and drunken assaults in Norfolk.

Chief constable Carole Howlett - who initially had reservations about the new laws - said: “The message seems to be so far so good.”

The news comes with the release of the first set of complete figures since the introduction of 24-hour licensing. They show 584 fewer violent offences in the county over the last six months compared with the same period the previous year, a reduction of almost nine per cent. Criminal damage - another offence often associated with alcohol consumption - also fell.

A key factor was a reduction in alcohol-fuelled brawls, with trouble-spots such as Prince of Wales Road in Norwich and Yarmouth town centre among the areas to see an improvement.

Police and licensees said the government's hope of replacing traditional drinking patterns with a more continental approach appeared to be paying off.

When the legislation was introduced in November hundreds of pubs and clubs across East Anglia were granted extended hours with many successfully applying for permission to open 24/7.

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Mrs Howlett admitted she initially had reservations. She said: “The early signs suggest that people are pacing their drinking and that the new opening hours have relieved pressure at times when flare-ups were common.

“I speak as somebody who was originally concerned about the changes. I feared that the violence would simply continue later into the night putting an increased strain on our resources.

“It is still early on and there is still progress to be made. We need to carry out in-depth analysis but so far we have been very pleased and believe it has had a positive impact.”

Craig McClaren, chairman of the LVA, said feedback from licensees and other businesses, such as taxi firms, supported the police's claims. Mr McClaren, who runs the Wig and Pen in Norwich, added that drinking behaviour had changed noticeably.

“I have noticed a lot of people coming out later instead of going for a drink straight after work,” he said. “People no longer have to go to clubs if they want to carry on drinking which means the crowds are spread over a wider range of venues.

“It is less than a year since these changes were introduced and we are already feeling the benefits. We can only hope that this trend continues.”