Pub 'happy hours' are blamed for rise in binge drinking and violence

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The Independent Online

Pubs and bars should be banned from holding "happy hours" in which drinks are sold at reduced prices because the practice is fuelling a rise in drunken violence in Britain's towns and cities, a report suggests.

Pubs and bars should be banned from holding "happy hours" in which drinks are sold at reduced prices because the practice is fuelling a rise in drunken violence in Britain's towns and cities, a report suggests.

The report by a leading criminal justice organisation claims that teenagers are consuming alcohol more regularly than ever before and that a new culture of "binge drinking" is emerging among young men and women.

The National Association for the Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders (Nacro), said "happy hours" might have to be banned if a more "responsible" drinking culture was to be encouraged.

In its report, Alcohol and Crime, which will be published in February, Nacro says: "The style of drinking in the UK and other places encourages crime. Binge drinking is associated with increased levels of violence. Binge drinking can be particularly encouraged by 'happy hours' which may be used to get 'tanked up' on cheap alcohol early in the evening."

The Nacro report is critical of the behaviour of local authorities who have sought to regenerate ailing shopping centres by granting "endless licences". The practice was "causing policing pressure, public transport headaches and public order and health problems with pressure on accident and emergency departments", the report said.

Nacro found that the United Kingdom was one of the few places in Europe where the frequency and volume of alcohol consumption was on the increase. The report conceded that simply restricting the availability of alcohol to young people would not necessarily reduce levels of violent crime.

Nacro said the keys to reducing alcohol-related crime were "cultural and social factors". A study of drinking patterns in Nordic countries in 1990 found that Denmark had the highest rate of alcohol consumption but the lowest rates of alcohol-related violence.

The problem in Britain was the "sporadic drinking" culture. "Sporadic drinking leading to acute intoxication are more strongly associated with violence than frequent but moderate drinking. Sporadic drinking tends to be associated with cultures where there is a tendency to drink in public as opposed to private settings."

The report called for alcohol-related crime to be treated with as great urgency and resources as drug-related crime.

A survey last year for Alcohol Concern found that most chief constables believed that alcohol-related crime created more problems for them than drug-related crime.

Nacro's call for a ban on "happy hours" follows findings by researchers at Durham University that local authorities were creating drunken battlegrounds by turning shopping precincts and industrial areas into "night strips" of bars selling cheap alcohol.