Unruly pubs are given last orders

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The Independent Online
Unruly and violent pubs could be given penalty points and eventually closed down under a scheme being considered by the Home Office, it was announced yesterday.

News of the clampdown on drink-related violence came as the Home Secretary disclosed details of proposals for a law against criminals and nightmare neighbours who terrorise and harass communities.

Under plans for the new Community Safety Order, people who break restrictions and curfews imposed by the courts could be jailed for up to five years and given an unlimited fine.

The new order, which would also apply to children as young as 10, is aimed at threatening and violent neighbours, and those whose behaviour includes playing loud music, or placing graffiti.

As part of the Government's drive against drinking and disorder, Alun Michael, the Home Office minister, told the Howard League for Penal Reform's annual conference in Oxford that his department was examining ways of dealing with violent pub-goers.

"Several senior police officers have told me that drink-related violence is now one of their biggest problems," he said.

"We are considering a range of proposals. These include a penalty points scheme for pubs linked to violence, with an accumulated level of points possibly leading to loss of licence."

Chief constables and magistrates are planning to set up a pilot scheme to test the penalty points system.

Mr Michael added that a second proposal being considered was to ensure that magistrates were told about the number of arrests at or near pubs and clubs so that they could revoke licences for unruly venues. City- centre venues would also be forced to use toughened glass to reduce injuries.

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, outlined proposals for the new Community Safety Order - due to be included in the Crime and Disorder Bill later this year. The Government is seeking views of interested parties.

Under the scheme, courts would be given powers to impose strict conditions on named individuals whose antisocial behaviour causes others distress or fear. Whole families could be named by the courts.

Restrictions could include a curfew or exclusion from an area. They would apply for a minimum of two years, but could last a lifetime.

Applications for the order would be made by the police and/or the local authority. Expert or "professional witnesses", including local authority staff, would testify in court, thereby removing the need for local residents to be identified and face the threat of intimidation.

Children as young as 10 could be made the subject of an order, but those aged between 10 and 15 could not be jailed. Instead, they would receive a punishment in the community.