The chief constable of Northamptonshire Police has hit out at the county’s magistrates and councillors, claiming they have no idea what happens on town centre streets after dark.
Speaking during a conference on violent crime, Northamptonshire’s Chief Constable, Adrian Lee, claimed local councils were bullied by drinks companies into blocking action to tackle late night alcohol-fuelled violence in town centres.
He also claimed a lack of knowledge from magistrates about violence levels contributed to poor decisions being made about drinking legislation.
He said: “I think a lot of important people, like magistrates and councillors, are not up to date with what’s happening in our county and they’re making some very important decisions without the knowledge of how things have changed.”
The conference heard that early morning incidents of violence in Northampton’s ‘leisure zone’ – an area of the town centred around Bridge Street – had increased by 91 per cent between 2004 and 2013 and that CCTV operators had noted a particular spike at 5am when large groups of people were still out drinking.
Mr Lee said: “People have got to realise what is actually going on. It’s not right for people to be in key roles, like councillors and magistrates, making decisions on things like licensing, when they aren’t fully aware of what’s happening on the streets of our county.”
In June last year, the police asked Northampton Borough Council to bring in a curfew to ban alcohol sales in the town centre between 3am and 6am.
But the move – known as an Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) – was blocked by councillors after they heard concerns from some club owners that their businesses could be forced to close.
Speaking this week, Mr Lee said he believed the case for an EMRO in Northampton town centre had been “overwhelming” and said he would push for the legislation to be implemented again this year.
He said: “Local councils are being bullied into not addressing EMROs because they’re frightened of the legal consequences and costs. They’re frightened to make decisions.
“This is not democracy in practice if big businesses are preventing local councils from using the powers they’ve got.”
The chief constable also said he had invited the town’s councillors and magistrates to visit the town centre during a busy weekend so they could see the true extent of violent crime levels.
Meanwhile, a senior councillor has claimed the only reason a 3am alcohol curfew was not introduced in Northampton was because the police did not provide the evidence to support the move.
In June last year, Northamp-ton Borough Council’s licensing committee blocked plans to introduce a drinks curfew in the town centre.
The county’s chief constable, Adrian Lee, has since said the decision reflected the fact councillors were not aware of the levels of violent crime in the area.
But the chairman of the council committee, Council-lor Chris Malpas (Con, Billing), refuted the suggestion.
He said: “When they brought the legislation forward to us, they failed to give us the evidence needed to prove that we should actually proceed with it.
“We have no problem with using the full extent of our powers, however we can only do it if the evidence has been given to us. We are aware of how things are in town centres, but we still need to be proportionate within the law.”
Councillor Malpas added that his committee would consider legislation again if it was proposed by the police.