Police are being taken off front-line work during the day to tackle drunks in the early hours because of all-day licensing laws, police chiefs say.
Mike Craik, Chief Constable of Northumbria Constabulary, said: “What 24-hour licensing has done is to give us more problems at three, four and five in the morning.
“Every force, certainly every force with a big town centre, is experiencing similar problems.”
Andy Trotter, deputy chief constable of the British Transport Police, agreed. He said: “The new laws may have brought an end to the 11pm rush but the downside is that police forces now have to deploy large numbers of officers through the night – sometimes to deal with extremely violent incidents – which means fewer resources are available for normal policing during the day.”
This latest criticism of the Government’s 24-hour licensing policy comes as new figures show a 136 per cent rise in public order offences since the laws were introduced.
In the twelve months preceding April, 161,431 Penalty Notices for Disorder were handed out. That compares to 68,342 notices issued in 2004/05 – the last year before the introduction of longer drinking hours.
The figures were published by the Daily Telegraph following a Freedom of Information enquiry to police forces in England and Wales.
Chief Constable Mike Craik said: “It is drinking that is driving the levels of penalty notices up. More than half are given to drunks and I would say this is the case across the country.”
But a Government spokesman defended the new laws, saying: “The recent evaluation of the Licensing Act showed that it has not led to an increase in crime and disorder.
“The average closing time has increased by only 21 minutes, and overall both crime and alcohol consumption are down.”