One in four 'a victim of drink-fired violence'

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The Independent Online

One-quarter of all British adults have been the victims of alcohol-related violence, according to the biggest survey yet on public attitudes to drinking published today.

One-quarter of all British adults have been the victims of alcohol-related violence, according to the biggest survey yet on public attitudes to drinking published today.

The Mori poll found that one in seven adults had been attacked in a pub and one in eight had been assaulted by drunks on the street. Most people believed that alcohol-related violence was on the increase, particularly in the street.

People under the age of 35 are five times more likely to have experienced drunken attacks in the pub than those over 65, suggesting that drinking patterns are driving up levels of violence. Four out of five would support some form of public drinking ban but half of those questioned doubted that police could effectively enforce one.

The findings will concern government ministers who fear damaging headlines emerging from the British Crime Survey, which is to be published next month. Like the Mori poll, the Crime Survey - which comes out every two years and will this year include information on alcohol-related crime - is based on public attitudes rather than recorded offences.

According to the Mori poll, people in Scotland were most likely to be the victims of pub violence, with most street attacks occurring in London and the South-east and in Scotland. One person in 14 said they had suffered alcohol-related violence in the home, with two-thirds of the victims being women.

The poll was commissioned by the Portman Group, set up by brewers to promote sensible drinking, which admitted yesterday that it had been "surprised" at the scale of the violence uncovered. Jean Coussins, the Portman Group's director, said: "I don't think you can brush aside findings that 14 per cent of people say they have been victims of pub violence." She called on the Government to commission more research on alcohol-related crime and implement proposals to give police greater powers to close down pubs with a track record of violence. Ms Coussins said: "We also need pub companies to promote more friendly pubs so that civilised sensible drinking becomes the norm."

The Mori findings follow those of a study by researchers at Durham University, which concluded that many town centres were becoming alcoholfuelled battlegrounds. The Durham team warned that projects by local authorities to transform decaying urban centres into 24-hour café societies were being undermined by planners allowing dense concentrations of late-night bars catering for young people.

The potential for violence has been recognised in Burnley, Lancashire, which has become a vibrant regional centre for nightlife. To minimise the risk of trouble in the town centre, Lancashire Police drew up an action plan in conjunction with licensees, taxi drivers and the town council, which reduced the number of reported incidents by 20 per cent.

Officers sent letters to the homes of known violent offenders giving them "crime-prevention advice" and warning that violence would not be tolerated in the town centre. Posters were also placed in pubs and taxis advising that 80 per cent of assaults were related to drink. The force also decidedto deploy large numbers of officers on foot, wearing high-visibility clothing to reassure people using the centre at night.

Inspector Steve Hartley of Lancashire Police said: "There are no easy answers... But the feedback we have had is that the town centre now feels safer."