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Yeovil, an example for us all

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The government is funding the roll out of fingerprint security at the doors of pubs and clubs in major English cities.

Funding is being offered to councils that want to have their pubs keep a regional black list of known trouble makers. The fingerprint network installed in February by South Somerset District Council in Yeovil drinking holes is being used as the showcase.

"The Home Office have looked at our system and are looking at trials in other towns including Coventry, Hull & Sheffield," said Julia Bradburn, principal licensing manager at South Somerset District Council.

Gwent and Nottingham police have also shown an interest, while Taunton, a town neighbouring Yeovil, is discussing the installation of fingerprint systems in 10 pubs and clubs with the systems supplier CreativeCode.

Bradburn could not say if fingerprint security in Yeovil had displaced crime to neighbouring towns, but she noted that domestic violence had risen in Yeovil. She could not give more details until the publication of national crime statistics to coincide with the anniversary of lax pub licensing laws on 24 November.

She was, however, able to say that alcohol-related crime had reduced by 48 per cent Yeovil between February and September 2006.

The council had assumed it was its duty under the Crime and Disorder Act (1998) to reduce drunken disorder by fingerprinting drinkers in the town centre.

Some licensees were not happy to have their punters fingerprinted, but are all now apparently behind the idea. Not only does the council let them open later if they join the scheme, but the system costs them only £1.50 a day to run.

Oh, and they are also coerced into taking the fingerprint system. New licences stipulate that a landlord who doesn't install fingerprint security and fails to show a "considerable" reduction in alcohol-related violence, will be put on report by the police and have their licences revoked.

Offenders can be banned from one pub or all of them for a specified time - usually a period of months - by a committee of landlords and police called Pub Watch. Their offences are recorded against their names in the fingerprint system. Bradburn noted the system had a "psychological effect" on offenders.

She said there had been only been two "major" instances of alcohol-related crime reported in Yeovil pubs and clubs since February. One was a sexual assault in a club toilet.

The other occurred last Friday when an under-18 Disco at Dukes nightclub got out of hand after the youngsters had obtained some alcohol from elsewhere. A fight between two youngsters escalated into a brawl involving 435 12 to 16 year olds

A major incident is when 15 police attend the scene, said Bradburn. She was unable to say how many minor incidents there had been, but acknowledged that fights were still occurring in the streets of Yeovil.

The Home Office paid for Yeovil's system in full, with £6,000 of Safer, Stronger Communities funding.

Bradburn said the Home Office had paid her scheme a visit and subsequently decided to fund similar systems in Coventry, Hull and Sheffield.

The Home Office distanced itself from the plans. It said it provided funding to Safer, Stronger Communities through the Department for Communities and Local Government's Local Area Agreements. How they spent the money was a local decision, said a HO spokeswoman. ®

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