Tougher glasses to cut pub violence

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The Independent Online
Drinking from a designer beer bottle could be barred with the introduction of millions of specially toughened beer glasses in an effort to reduce the carnage from drunken pub brawls.

Bars and nightclubs are to receive eight million new pint pots which have been subjected to a cooling process which means they are much more difficult to break. If they do smash, they break into tiny and harmless pieces, similar to those in a broken car windscreen.

Allan Charlesworth, the Association of Chief Police Officers spokesman on licensing issues, called for the new toughened glasses to be made compulsory, particularly in pubs and nightclubs which attract a high proportion of young people.

"The weight of evidence makes it imperative for the use of toughened glass to be included as a condition of a licence," he said.

Mr Charlesworth, Assistant Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, demanded the banning of drinking directly from bottles. "Naturally there is opposition to this stance from retailers since the practice has become fashionable and has commercial implications. However, Acpo believes the promotion of community safety and the reduction of crime overrides other considerations."

Demaglass, Britain's biggest producer of glasses for the drinks industry, has switched to the new process following comments by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, that he wished to take action to reduce the number of glassing incidents.

Mr Straw has already asked Alun Michael and George Howarth, the Home Office ministers with responsibility for crime prevention and licensing, to look at ways of increasing the availability of safer glasses. The industry has been under pressure to reduce alcohol-related crime and Glenda Jackson, transport minister, has called for pubs to be given penalty points when violence occurs on their premises.

Her son Daniel lost the sight in one eye after a beer glass was pushed into his face in a pub in London as he tried to defuse a row after beer was thrown over friends during a karaoke night.

Jeremy Clarke, of Demaglass, said the new toughened glasses were between 10 and 15 per cent more expensive to produce. "It is often innocent parties that get caught up in pub fights and get cut," he said. "This will help to create a safer drinking environment."

The decision to introduce the toughened glasses follows 10 years of campaigning by Professor Jonathan Shepherd, of Cardiff Royal Infirmary. He began his crusade after being horrified by the succession of badly wounded and scarred pub-goers who every weekend were brought into hospital.

Every year there are around 5,500 attacks in which glass is used as a weapon. Professor Shepherd found that 75 per cent of such attacks were carried out with straight-sided pint glasses and 15 per cent with bottles.

The standard pint glass tends to break at the rim, leaving a jagged edge and a firm base, he said. "You could not design a more ghastly weapon."

Laboratory tests by the Cardiff team have shown that the toughened beer glasses were six times more difficult to break than the standard ones.

Mark Bennett, of Alcohol Concern, said: "For a worrying proportion of people, alcohol makes them feel aggressive and behave violently. The toughened glasses will help ensure that a weapon is not instantly at hand."

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