Friday, 11 January 2013

Policing alcohol by the popular vote

It's always a problem we have, that the general public seem to have been successfully convinced that we have a drink problem in the UK. Of course, it does strike me that if we have a general problem with alcohol then the general population is naughty. The reply might come back that it's just a few people, of course, you, me and our best friends aren't the problem, are we?

I wasn't convinced that Police and Crime Commissioners should be elected. My view is that we have various politicians that decide how much, or little, should be spent on the police and make laws that the police should enforce. The best people to decide how to actually enforce laws are the people who have been doing so for many years and know what works, and what doesn't. We have a legal system complete with appeals all the way to the actual law makers themselves that generally act as safeguards. I know it goes wrong, but I am unconvinced that we need more elected nit-wits to mess stuff up.

To my shame I didn't vote at the recent Police and Crime Commissioner elections. I have a strong conviction that we all have a duty to vote. I didn't, I'm sorry, I'll try better next time. Perhaps it's because I don't believe the post should be elected, or perhaps I was just too busy. Either-way, there is no satisfactory excuse and I now have a reason to try better next time.

I notice this week that the Cumbrian Police and Crime Commissioner, Richard Rhodes, has decided, for reasons of proving he's fit for the job, has jumped on the popular "let's knock drinking" bandwagon by over-stating that there is an underage drink problem. He goes on to suggest that there should be a 72 hour automatic closure for any premises that is caught serving underage people, even on the first offence.

I don't doubt that he is right that some licensees don't pay enough attention to this isolated problem. I also don't doubt that some bar staff are much less diligent than they should be. I've witnessed it myself. However, suppose you were a licensee who was generally diligent, but one of your staff served an underage friend a drink. The suggestion seems to be that the publican would have an immediate and automatic 72 hour closure.

In this sort of instance the publican would be somewhat bitter towards the police about the matter. As an ex-publican I have always found the police value the relationship with good publicans. Indeed, so much so that my own opinions of police in general has been significantly improved as a result of my time running a pub. I feel that even the threat of such an action would undermine the great relationship that can exist between the police and the people who generally have to deal with the trouble on the ground.

It is telling that Mr Rhodes also states "In a number of areas in Cumbria there is a very close working arrangement between publicans and the Police, and the police feel that if they were required to be more forceful it would threaten that partnership"

Damn right Mr Rhodes.


StringersBeer said...

I didn't vote for the Po&Crim Commisionnaires at the 2010 general election (They were in Tory & LibDem manifestos) so I'm not going to vote for one now am I? Personally, I think it's a bit cheeky for some bloke who got votes from less than 9% of the electorate. Not a very popular vote.

Brewers Union Local 180 said...

I would pick the 72 hour closure over the $2000 fine that we would get to enjoy, were we to serve a minor. They even try to trick is with decoys.

Phil said...

The thing about the P&CCs is that they replaced an unelected body (the appointed Police Authority), which itself replaced an elected body (the elected Police Authority), which replaced another elected body (the local council - yes, the police used to be accountable to the council). Having the police accountable to somebody elected isn't a new idea & it's not obviously a bad idea. Whether P&CCs deliver anything like democratic accountability is another question.

Curmudgeon said...

We have plenty of "test purchase" decoys in this country too. IMV such tactics should only be used if there is prima facie evidence that underage sales are already routinely taking place.

StringersBeer said...

Correction LibDems were after elected authorities - I read.

The po-lice were responsible to an Authority which included Local gov members (elected) and to the Home Office, i.e. central gov (elected), but the point (?) of the system was to have the police responsive (yeah) and accountable (huh) without being under political control.

Whatever, I stand by the point that Mr Rhodes doesn't really have much of a mandate to do anything apart from ensuring things tick over as they are.

Phil said...

Originally urban police forces were accountable directly to the local council, which obviously was generally run by a political party. The idea that the control of the police should be apolitical is a very recent one - it was actually a Tory reform, aimed at stopping all those nasty socialists meddling in police business.

Apparently that's not so much of a danger now.

StringersBeer said...

@Phil, you may call it recent. I gather the original police commissions were highly various, some elected some co-opting. Local worthies for the most part.

Neville Grundy said...

We didn't sack leaders of political parties when their MPs were found with their noses deep in the expenses trough, so why should licensees be deprived of their livelihoods, if only for 3 days, if one of their staff serve an underage drinker?

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