A couple of weeks ago, after travel restrictions on the Tyne-Wear derby were lifted, I made a comment that rather than seeking to punish bona fide supporters who wanted to support their team the police should apply to close all pubs within a three-mile radius of the ground. My point was that the element which caused bother after the last Newcastle game had spent the afternoon drinking and had then gone out looking for trouble. By targeting pubs rather than fans the police would address the issue at its roots and although some innocent landlords would lose out those who had broken the law by serving drink to already-drunken fans would get their just desserts
I didn’t get it quite right. Northumbria Police reported yesterday (20th Jan) that “out of the 156 arrested, 57 said they had been to the match and 33 were season ticket holders” and “in total 93 people were charged with offences following the derby in April, with 17 cases still being progressed through the courts”. (http://www.northumbria.police.uk/news_and_events/news/details.asp?id=92120). I don’t know how many of those 93 were at the match but at least 36 of them were somewhere else during the game.
Which brings me back to the pubs and the landlords. About one hundred non-attenders were arrested after the April derby and a minimum of 36 non-attenders were charged with an offence. How many of them had been drinking, and how culpable were pub landlords in allowing them to become inebriated? If such numbers had been arrested on any normal afternoon there would be hell to pay, pub licensees would be held to account, and rightly so.
Of course, there might be another side to it. These aggressive individuals might have bought their beer at an off-licence, some may even have been stone-cold sober, and pub landlords might not be at fault. What do you think?
A report published last week by the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University (http://jech.bmj.com/content/early/2014/01/03/jech-2013-203287.full) found that pubs frequently do serve drink to people who are clearly under the influence. The more poorly-managed and problematic the establishment the greater the likelihood of drunks being served but over 60% of even the best-managed premises they sampled served drink to apparently intoxicated people.
The authors noted that UK law prohibits sale of alcohol to anyone already drunk, yet convictions for doing this are extremely rare, with only three in 2010. Even though the LJMU study wasn’t undertaken in Newcastle, and it wasn’t undertaken in the afternoon, its findings and conclusions should give Northumbria Police, indeed police everywhere, food for thought:
“Although our study focused on one city, a lack of prosecutions for sales to drunks throughout England suggests this is typical of nightlife environments nationally… …with such widespread disregard for the law, police may consider the task of identifying and prosecuting drunken sales overwhelming. However, in other countries, illegal alcohol sales to drunks have been significantly reduced through combined enforcement and awareness-raising based on findings from studies such as this. Importantly, just a few prosecutions for selling alcohol to drunks in an area could change the norm of flouting the law.”
So there you have it. Crack down on pubs that break the law and people will find it harder to get drunk. It won’t stop antisocial behaviour completely but it will help, and law-abiding citizens who just want to support their team will be better able to do so.
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