Alcohol bans (also known as alcohol-free zones) are usually introduced because of concern about disorderly behaviour and criminal offending linked to the consumption of alcohol in public places. This is seen as detrimental to businesses and visitors as people think the area is not a safe place to visit.
An alcohol ban prohibits the possession or consumption of alcohol in certain locations and at certain times.
Territorial authorities are able to make alcohol control bylaws under s.147 of the Local Government Act 2002 following a full community consultation process.
The Local Government (Alcohol Reform) Amendment Act 2012 has made changes to the way alcohol bans can be imposed in response to recommendations from the Law Commission.
The area where an alcohol ban may be imposed includes any public place. This means, for example, that an alcohol ban can be imposed in a private car park if drinking is causing problems. Previously alcohol bans could be imposed only in a public place under the control of the territorial authority.
There is now a greater responsibility on the territorial authority to justify the alcohol ban. A ban must be a reasonable limitation on rights and freedoms and there must be evidence of a high level of crime or disorder that was caused or made worse by alcohol consumption. Any bylaw must be appropriate and proportionate in the light of that crime or disorder. (Previously the territorial authority had only to prove alcohol would be present in a public place on a specified day and that it was likely to lead to disorder or offensive behaviour, fighting or assault.)
There is also provision for regulations to be made to require signage to ensure people know where the limits of the alcohol ban area are.
For evidential purposes, police do not have to have samples tested where the alcohol is clearly labelled as alcohol, or is in another container but smells like alcohol, or where it was admitted that it was alcohol.