The Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 allows councils to designate areas in which drinking alcohol in public is not a crime, but in which an offence is committed by refusing to cease drinking or refusing to surrender alcohol if requested by a police officer.

However, several councils have abused this by labelling their entire territories as 'designated areas'.

The Act should be amended to ensure only legitimate hotspots are covered and that councils are limited both in the nature and size of the areas they can 'designate'.

In addition, the Act should be reviewed with a view to safeguarding civil liberties.

Why is this idea important?

The current law is arbitrary and capricious. It is impossible to know just by being there whether an area is 'designated' and one must accept the view of a police officer if questioned.

The sole determining factor in whether you must cease to consume alcohol, the alcohol is confiscated, or nothing happens at all is the whim of the police officer. This leads to sporadic enforcement and an arbitrary severity of requests, with some police forces automatically requiring alcohol to be confiscated and others not minding its consumption at all unless trouble occurs.

The Act also contains clauses which nullify bye-laws relating to consuming alcohol but the police seem unaware that these bye-laws no longer apply.

The police often tell people it is 'illegal' to consume alcohol in designated areas, whereas the Act clearly states it is only an offence to refuse to comply with their orders, which may never come.

In general, this is a flawed piece of legislation that is not well-understood by police or the public and which is abused by councils who feel that their entire territory should be covered.

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