Booze Fuelled Violence Falls

The number of arrests for booze-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour in Gwent fell by almost 450 in the last nine months since 24-hour drinking was introduced last year. Critics of the new licensing laws feared an increase in violence, predicting a bleak vision of brawling drunken louts stretching police and ambulance resources to the limit. But since the more relaxed licensing laws were brought into force last November, the latest figures show a very different story in Gwent.

While the number of arrests for alcohol-fuelled violence and public disorder has rocketed in the neighbouring South Wales Police area – and Cardiff in particular – it has fallen significantly across all of Gwent’s three police divisions.

The latest figures show that from November 24, 2005 to August 29, Newport police saw the number of drink-related arrests fall by 92 from 834 to 742 when compared with the same period in 2004/05.

In Monmouthshire and Torfaen, the number of arrests fell by 40 from 758 to 718.

But it was Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly which saw the biggest drop in arrests by 311 – from 1,538 to 1,227.

One reason being put forward by the police for the fall is that drinkers are now leaving pubs and nightclubs at different times. The rigid former closing times meant customers were usually turned out at either 11pm from bars or 2am from clubs. There is now less chance of revellers clashing by leaving premises en masse at the same time and violence flaring.

Some clubs in Newport city centre now don’t shut their doors until 4am or 5am on weekends.

But one of the city’s police chiefs, Superintendent Simon Prince, said this was also the result of targeting trouble-makers and arresting them earlier in the evening before violence escalates.

Supt Prince said police patrols were also reducing drunken violence on the city’s streets and nipping the problem in the bud.

“We aim to target people and intervene early in public order incidents when it’s at a low level. People will be arrested at an early stage rather than for more serious violence later on.”

PC Jim Aitken, Gwent Police’s licensing officer, said: “There does not seem to have been the negative impact that many feared from the new laws. It is encouraging to see arrest figures have decreased and it would be nice to say that it is down to the new act but it is early days yet.

“What I would say is that the new staggered closing times, especially in urban areas, has meant people are now leaving pubs at different times and there is less chance of them clashing.”

PC Aitken said trouble used to flare when people would all be trying to get a taxi home at the same time.