By Sean-Paul Doran
PUBS and clubs face tougher sanctions for anti-social behaviour occurring on their premises as new legislation comes into force this week.
The Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Act (NI) 2011, passed by the Assembly last year, means that from today (Monday), December 10, licensed premises can be shut down by a senior police officer for up to 24 hours if disorder breaks out or is expected.
Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland said he hopes the new powers never have to be used, but is glad they can be enforced if needed.
“As a rule, I know that the police would prefer to prevent crime rather than to have to deal with its consequences,” said Mr McCausland.
“Disorder in pubs and clubs puts a strain on our emergency services and causes distress for those living in the vicinity.
“I expect these new powers to deter anti-social behaviour in and outside pubs and clubs and help ensure the licensee runs an orderly house. I expect closure will only be used as a last resort.”
Under Articles 69A of the Licensing Order and 41A of the Clubs Order, the police may apply to a court for an order to close licensed premises or registered clubs in a court district where disorder is occurring or expected. The application may only be made by an officer of the rank of Superintendent or above.
Articles 69B of the same legislation allows the police to close the premises themselves, even using adequate force, if deemed necessary. Such an order may only be made by an Inspector or above.
Welcoming the new powers, Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton echoed Mr McCausland’s desire for alternative solutions to be found, but says the legislation will help the police improve public safety.
“We acknowledge that the closure of any premises is a significant step and, for that reason, these powers will be used as a last resort and when all other options have been exhausted,” he said.
“The Police Service continually works in partnership with a wide range of organisations to assist in the process of creating a safe night time economy across all of Northern Ireland and will continue to do so.”