Hackney to combat problem public drinking

Measures to crack down on antisocial public drinking have been approved by Hackney council.

Al fresco drinking. Photo: Francesca Waite

Measures to crack down on antisocial public drinking have been approved by Hackney council.

The new rules mean that the entire borough will be subject to a ‘Designated Public Place Order’ (DPPO), which gives greater powers to police to intervene with problem drinkers.

From 24 May, it will become an offence to continue drinking alcohol in public in Hackney after being told to stop by a police officer.

Those who disobey will face the possibility of a £50 fine, or could find themselves arrested and prosecuted. Police will also be able to confiscate alcohol from those drinking in public, whether or not it is in an open container. It will not be illegal to consume alcohol in public in a peaceful manner.

Outside areas covered by a DPPO, police are unable to act against antisocial public drinking until it has escalated to become a more serious offence.

The controlled drinking zone was approved at Monday evening’s meeting of the council cabinet by a unanimous vote. The new rules have also found majority support among local residents, 63% of whom said they were in favour of the extended DPPO during a public consultation last year.

Councillors said that the move is not intended to punish people drinking peacefully, and that it will be at the discretion of the police to decide whether or not to take action against individuals, according to their behaviour.

Councillor Karen Alcock, Hackney’s Deputy Mayor, said: “It doesn’t stop people from sitting on their own and having a beer – that’s not what the powers are there to do. It’s for the persistent drinkers who are shouting and intimidating people, and giving police the power to deal with them.”

Labour Councillor Alan Laing said: “The enforcement process is clear. This will only be used in targeted areas to known problem drinkers and will be determined either by local communities tasking their safer neighbourhood teams to deal with a local issue, or it will be tasked through the fortnightly borough tasking meeting where the police decide on their priorities in an intelligence-led approach.”

However, some have expressed scepticism about the move. Andrew Boff, the Conservative candidate for Hackney mayor, criticized the new rules, saying: “I think it would work in isolated problem areas but a blanket ban is just another example of the nanny state.” “It’s ridiculous to say people can’t go and sit in a park and enjoy a bottle of wine.”

However, according to Cllr Laing, fears about persecution of sensible drinkers are unfounded. He said: “Will people be able to sit in a park and have a bottle of wine with a picnic? Absolutely. Will people be able to walk down the street with a drink in their hand? Yes, absolutely. Will residents, who are suffering from alcohol related anti-social behaviour through groups of street drinkers have to continue to wait months for specific powers to be introduced before the police can act? No – and that’s why we’ve introduced these powers.”

Alcohol-related antisocial behaviour is an issue of concern in Hackney, with high numbers of drink-related violent attacks reported in the borough.

It is the sixth London borough to introduce a blanket controlled drinking zone, following Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, Camden, Brent and Lambeth.

The borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, which instigated similar policing powers in November 2006, found that emergency calls related to drunken vagrants fell by half in the year after the measures were approved.

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