Blackpool and Torquay hit by alcohol-fuelled violence

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The Independent Online

Violence erupted in two seaside resorts during the weekend leaving one man dead and another in a critical condition.

Violence erupted in two seaside resorts during the weekend leaving one man dead and another in a critical condition.

In Torquay a 20-year-old was stabbed to death during street clashes involving up to 40 people, while in Blackpool a holidaymaker was punched outside a pub and then hit by a car.

The incidents came days after Tony Blair launched the Government's five-year plan on law and order that includes a crackdown on yobbish behaviour and alcohol-fuelled violence. A rise in the number of cases of violence recorded by the police has been partly blamed on the British culture of binge drinking.

In the first incident, two groups of youths in the south Devon resort became involved in a street battle after the pubs had closed on Friday night. Witnesses reported to police that the fight started when youths got out of a car and confronted a rival group who had been shouting at them. A brawl followed in which weapons were used, including knives and pieces of wood with nails sticking out of them.

Benjamin Crews, 20, died after being stabbed in the neck. Devon and Cornwall Police yesterday named Sean McNamara, 17, as a suspect they wanted to talk to about the death. The two young men are understood to have been friends, but they had fallen out in recent weeks.

Detectives believe the teenager may be injured and was probably given a lift in a camper van to the West Midlands, possibly to Birmingham where his family come from, during the weekend.

A police spokesman said that the resort had a problem with fighting among drunk pub and club-goers, but that a gang culture had not taken hold in the town. Local people have previously complained of violence in the same part of Torquay and police were called about a fortnight ago to break up a dispute between youths.

In Blackpool, the attack took place outside the New Road Inn pub where Phillip Langton, 25, a holidaymaker from Manchester, and his assailants had been drinking. Mr Langton had been involved in an argument with two younger men when one of them punched him in the head, a spokesman for Lancashire Police said.

The holidaymaker then fell into the path of an oncoming car on Talbot Road, Blackpool, at about 8pm on Saturday night. It is not clear whether he was deliberately thrown or stumbled onto the road. Mr Langton was taken to the Royal Preston Hospital where his injuries were described as life-threatening.

Police yesterday appealed for witnesses to the fight to contact them.

Last month David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, told MPs: "Anti-social behaviour, binge drinking and lower-level thuggery continue to blight the lives of too many people. We must change the culture of violence. Respect needs to be restored, responsibility and duty accepted, and parenting seen as an essential contributor to changing behaviour."

Among the initiatives announced was the recruitment of 20,000 extra community support officers to carry out street patrols and £80 fixed-penalty fines for under-age drinking. The police have also launched a series of summer operations at almost 90 areas where alcohol-fuelled violence in a problem.