Evaluations of the 2003 Licensing Act

A Home Office report on the impact of the Licensing Act
(2003), which came into force in November 2005, is due to be published
in the next few weeks. The study found that the consequences of the Act
varied across the country but overall it made little difference to
alcohol-related crime and disorder. The evidence gives no indication
that the Act has delivered what the government promised, namely,
reductions in binge drinking, reductions in crime and disorder and an
increased diversity in the night-time economy. This is in spite of the
increased resources available to the police and economic conditions that
would be expected to reduce drinking.

Key findings from the Home Office report

Opening hours: Only a very small minority of pubs and
clubs applied for 24-hour licences. A fifth stuck with their old 11pm
closing time, and half applied for an hour’s extension to midnight. The
remaining 30% opted for 1pm closing. Of those that did apply for 24-hour
opening, 65% were hotels, many of which had bars open to residents
only.

Crime and disorder: Five towns and cities (Birmingham,
Blackpool, Croydon, Guildford and Nottingham) were used as case studies.
Although there was variation between these, overall violent crime fell
by 3%, which reflect increases in three locations and decreases in the
other two. There is evidence of temporal displacement: in four out of
five sites there was a fall in levels of violent crime between 11:00 pm
and midnight; and the small proportion of violent crimes occurring
between 3:00 and 5:00 am grew in the year after the change. The authors
of the report conclude that this is probably a consequence of the Act. A
survey of 30 police forces showed a similar pattern.

Hospital attendances: A survey of 33 A&E departments
across England and Wales found a 2% fall in attendances in 2006 compared
with 2005, this fall being concentrated amongst women.

Case study of Birmingham

In a separate study carried out at Birmingham University, a
wider range of measures were examined for that city. This study found
no change in attendances at A&E, consistent with the broader
national picture found in the Home Office report. However, the number of
deaths from alcohol-related illnesses increased in the year following
the implementation of the Act, from an average of 100 per year in the
three years up to Nov. 2005 (for the two health trusts that supplied
data), to 119 in the following year. The causes of death included in
these figures include both short-term effects of intoxication and
long-term effects of drinking such as liver cirrhosis.

There was an increase in recorded crime in the year
following the Act, from an average of 3,282 incidents per year in the
three preceding years, to 4,756 in the following year. This may have
been due to increased police activity. The number of alcohol-related
road traffic collisions (RTCs) decreased, which may have been the
continuation of a longer-term trend. A contrasting trend was seen in
arrests for drink-driving; these had been increasing up to 2005, but as
with RTCs, decreased in 2006.

Download a copy of the Home Office report here. (pdf 162kb)