Police chief wants power to curb off-licence openings

12 May, 2008

Police should have more say over applications to open new off-licences in order to help curb alcohol-related crime, the chief constable of Merseyside Police has said.

Communities could be subject to “means testing” when a new off-licence is proposed, chief constable Bernard Hogan-Howe told Channel 4’s Street Weapons Commission.

Drawing a link between alcohol and violent crime, and particularly gun crime, he said authorities should ask whether an area really needs another off-licence.

Hogan-Howe, who also last year called for the legal drinking age to be raised to 21, spoke at the Liverpool meeting of the Street Weapons Commission, headed by Cherie Booth (Blair), last Wednesday.

His comments on off-licences were rejected by the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).

“We don’t believe the number of outlets is an issue here,” ACS spokesperson Shane Brennan told OLN. “This idea was debated at length in 2003 before the new licensing laws were introduced.”

Every chief constable has the power to cancel applications for a licence, he said, adding that introducing “some kind of quota system would harm competition and not target the real problem”.

A committee of MPs will today debate the introduction of alcohol disorder zones, which would give local authorities the power to charge local bars and outlets to police trouble 'hotspots'.

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