Give Police more control over alcohol supply – Farry

North Down Alliance MLA and Party Justice Spokesperson, Stephen Farry, has written to Security Minister David Hanson to ask him to consider a change in police powers to enable them to close off-licences and licensed premises within a designated area when there are strong grounds to suggest that massive public order problems will occur in relation to a parade or another event. This call comes in the wake of public disorder and violence in Bangor on Easter Tuesday.

Dr Farry stated:

“There is great concern and anger at the public order problems and violence in Bangor and on public transport relating to Easter’s Tuesday’s Junior Orange parade. The clear and overwhelming message to local public representatives has been that they do not want to see a repeat of such scenes.

“It is important that the factors behind this trouble are analysed, and any steps that can be taken to prevent similar such problems are considered. Clearly, many different agencies including the Council and the Police have responsibilities, and those organising the parades must have some regard to the activities of those who come to watch. This must be more than simply condemning the violence.

“One aspect which does require particular attention is the ready availability of alcohol, which clearly fuelled much of the violence. In addition, bottles and cans provide ready missiles. The police have only limited capacity to confiscate alcohol when large crowds are present. In any event, the powers of the police to confiscate drink probably need to be clarified and strengthened.

“Fundamentally, consideration must be given to the ease of access to alcohol in such circumstances. This could involve giving the police the powers to direct that off-licences and perhaps licensed premises within a certain distance of parades be closed for a prescribed period of time on grounds of maintaining public order and public safety. Such powers could be applied to other events where alcohol-fuelled violence is anticipated.

“A change in the criminal justice and licensing legislation would be required to give the police such powers. They would be broader than the proposals within the current review of the licensing regime, which suggest giving police and the courts the power to temporarily close specific premises.

“As most parades and events pass off without incident, I would anticipate that this power would be used sparingly. There are patterns as to which parades and events are likely to cause most trouble. Good intelligence would indicate when trouble is likely to occur.

“I respect the right of businesses to go about their normal trade, but when the supply of alcohol creates major problems and imposes wider costs on society. Such powers may provide a more pragmatic and practical solution.

“Given the financial and human damage that can be caused by alcohol-fuelled violence and the pressures placed upon the police in dealing with trouble, such preventative action I believe would be widely supported.

“It is important that our town centres are shared public space, and that families can use the town centre and traders can continue their business, even when major parades or other events are taking place.”


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