Yob Britain: tough new penalties for drunk louts

Blunkett warns of 'summer of violence'. Trouble-makers to be banned from bars
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The Independent Online

David Blunkett has warned the Cabinet that Britain faces a summer of drink-fuelled rioting amid increasing concern over "yob culture".

David Blunkett has warned the Cabinet that Britain faces a summer of drink-fuelled rioting amid increasing concern over "yob culture".

The Home Secretary briefed ministers on the preparations for public disorder in this country as further trouble flared in Portugal.

They include new "three-strikes" orders banning drunken yobs from licensed premises. The orders apply to any drinker convicted of three offences within 12 months and last for three years.

The new powers form the centrepiece of a crackdown on drink-related crime Mr Blunkett will launch next month.

The Home Office yesterday fought to restore the credibility of its trumpeted moves against soccer hooliganism after a ringleader sentenced in Portugal to two years' jail walked free on return to Britain.

Officials said that Garry Mann, 46, could not serve his sentence in Britain "because a Portuguese judge messed up". Fans were warned the slip-up would not be repeated.

A week of violence sparked by England's defeat by France in the Euro 2004 tournament has focused attention on the effects of "yob culture".

Ministers are also coming under pressure as Channel 4 faces increasing criticism over Big Brother, the reality show now subject to a police investigation following a drunken brawl between contestants.

The Tories last night called on Ofcom, the media regulator, to intervene after an adviser quit amid claims producers ignored warnings of impending violence.

Professor David Wilson said he could not lend his name to a show offering "hooligan-esque behaviour happening for our entertainment". "If hooliganism was wrong on the Algarve, it was wrong in the Big Brother house," he said.

Julie Kirkbride, the Conservative Culture spokeswoman, urged Ofcom to intervene to prevent the broadcast of the "sort of loutish behaviour we are seeing at Euro 2004".

Fans rampaged in towns and cities throughout England last Sunday after France's dramatic win, and Mr Blunkett briefed the Cabinet on the prospects of further trouble on Thursday. Although the Home Secretary believes that the vast majority of England fans in Portugal have behaved very well, he told his senior colleagues of concerns over alcohol-related disorder in Britain this summer.

A special guidance document has been issued to police forces on new powers to bar trouble-makers from any licensed premises, including the new banning orders.

The summer crackdown comes as official figures show violent crimes rose by 14 per cent between July and September last year compared with the same period in 2002. Most of the assaults were alcohol-related. Ministers have identified 30 hot-spots around the country, including Nottingham, Sheffield and Birmingham, where there is a high concentration of pubs and clubs and where rowdy drinkers have been making city centres no-go areas at night.

In the first exercise of its kind, officers from 60 police units will target bars on Friday and Saturday nights, monitoring cheap drink promotions, using video cameras to record bad behaviour and gathering intelligence on unscrupulous licensees.

Spearheading the campaign will be Paul Evans, the former chief of Boston police in the US who heads the Home Office's police performance unit. The decorated Vietnam veteran was successful in purging under-age drinking in Boston by introducing alcohol-free zones and party patrols at college campuses.

Meanwhile, Portuguese police were braced for more trouble at Albufeira on the Algarve, the scene of repeated rioting involving Britons. Officers moved in after drunken fans hurled bottles at police. They then cleared the area as around 400 fans chanted at them defiantly.