UK

Police should target troublesome drunks, A&E boss says

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Media caption"Drunk and disorderly is a statutory offence and we should sometimes act upon it," says Dr Mann

Police should crack down on binge drinking to stop hospital staff being distracted by disorderly drunks, a leading doctor has said.

Dr Clifford Mann, president of the College of Emergency Medicine, said the "softer approach" used for anti-social drunkenness did not seem to be working.

Police could instead increase arrests, convictions and fines, he suggested.

Police Federation chair Steve White said the police force did not have the resources for such an approach.

'Wasting resources'

Crime prevention minister Lynne Featherstone said the government was "determined to tackle alcohol-fuelled harm", which she said cost society around £21bn a year.

The coalition had improved the powers available to the police and licensing authorities to tackle alcohol-related crime, and had banned the "worst cases of very cheap and harmful alcohol sales", the Liberal Democrat MP said.

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Speaking to the BBC, Dr Mann said: "All I am saying at the moment is the softer approach - where we don't any longer arrest many people for being drunk and disorderly - certainly doesn't seem to be working."

He said the number of people arriving at A&E units while drunk was increasing year on year, while the number of licensed premises in the UK was also increasing and alcohol was getting cheaper.

"I think these people, by the nature of the disorder, they are distracting medical and nursing staff from looking after other patients and therefore are wasting public resources," he said.

"I think they therefore fall into the category of being drunk and disorderly in their behaviour and the police can act to take them away."

Matter for education?

But Mr White told the BBC that cuts to the police force had left 16,000 fewer officers in the country so a "zero tolerance" policy was impossible.

He said police were also frustrated with having to deal with drunk people, and cells were already full with people in similar conditions every Friday and Saturday night.

He added that courts, social services, ambulances and the government all had a role to play in reducing the number of people getting drunk and disorderly - and not solely the police.

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