Summary: Alcohol-fuelled crime and disorder goes largely unpunished. There is too much emphasis on the licence-holder, and too little on the anti-social behaviour of his customers.
I read a report recently of experiments being conducted on mice, in which the animals are deliberately infected with a virus, which seemingly dampens addictive tendencies in the brain. The publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences enthusiastically claimed that this ‘breakthrough’ could be developed so as to control anti-social behaviour and binge drinking tendencies in human beings. Whether the dream-proposal is to forcibly infect humans (it may be a court order is envisaged) or to offer the virus on a voluntary basis, the article does not state.
The above scenario is unlikely to present itself as a reality; but I am increasingly alarmed by the growing number of ill-thought-out schemes offered for solving the problems caused by the drunks on our streets. I have often said, in submissions to courts, in lectures and in the press, that the heart of the problem (as it seems to me) is that the perpetrators of the various public nuisances and anti-social behaviour – the binge drinking revellers, the drunk and disorderly, the vomiters and urinators, the street fighters – go unpunished, un-admonished even, from weekend to weekend; and when their favourite haunt loses its liquor licence, the trouble makers simply go somewhere else and replicate their appalling behaviour there.
Closing licensed premises, or curtailing their hours so as to make them unviable businesses, may look good in the published minutes of hearings by licensing committees: the first impression is that the problem has been addressed. But when the identical crime and disorder simply pops up elsewhere, and the whole rigmarole of review, revocation and appeal has to be undertaken all over again, there is perhaps a dawning recognition that little or no good has been done – the problems have simply been displaced.
In an article for The Times a couple of years ago, I suggested that the revocation of a nightclub’s premises licence, as a ‘solution’ to the problems created by its customers, was analogous to reducing the incidence of dangerous driving on our motorways by closing car dealerships. I remain firmly of that view. Until the actual trouble-makers suffer the consequences of their actions we will continue to have public nuisance, crime and disorder, and the unsavoury catalogue of awfulness listed above, the whole gamut of it, on our town centre streets every weekend – and we may confidently look forward to that remaining so, no matter how many mice they infect with viruses.
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