Police want booze snatch powers on every Islington street

DRINKERS anywhere in Islington could have their unopened cans or bottles of alcohol seized and poured down the drain if police are given new powers.

Police and council chiefs are calling for a borough-wide “controlled drinking zone” that would give officers the power to confiscate alcohol from anyone they deem likely to cause a nuisance. Even sealed drinks in a carrier bag could be taken away.

Chief Inspector Steve Marshall, of Islington police, said: “I think it will help reduce violent crime and anti-social behaviour.

“I understand people might be concerned but the intention is for it to be applied in an intelligent way. The last thing we want to do is give people the impression they cannot go into the park and have a picnic.”

Councillor Barbara Sidnell, Islington Council’s executive member for community safety (Labour), said: “Where we have problems with drinkers we will be able to go in and deal with that as soon as possible. When drinking becomes a nuisance to other people we will crack down on that. It’s what people have asked for.”

But civil liberties campaigners say the move would be open to abuse – and fear alcohol will be taken off people who are doing nothing wrong.

Josie Appleton, of The Manifesto Club, an anti-regulation campaign group based in Farringdon Road, Clerkenwell, said: “The police already have laws for dealing with drunken and disorderly behaviour.

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“This would give them a blank cheque to take alcohol off you for any reason at any time – and what has happened when they have introduced it elsewhere, such as in Camden, is that it has been phenomenally abused.

“People have had drinks taken off them when they are having a picnic with friends.”

“It’s a really dangerous open-ended power and police don’t even record when they use it, so there are no checks and balances.”

She added: “It’s often used to target people they think of as unsavoury, such as homeless people or young people, even if they are not doing anything wrong.”

Refusal to hand over alcohol to police could result in a �50 on the spot fine or even arrest and prosecution, which would carry a maximum fine of �500 if found guilty.

Islington currently has five smaller controlled drinking zones, including around the Emirates Stadium, while neighbouring Camden has already introduced one across the borough.

Thom Glen, 28, a barman who lives in Alexander Road, Holloway, said: “I think it’s an invasion of our civil liberties. I’ve experienced it in Camden, when the police have taken four or five unopened cans in a plastic bag from me. It’s ridiculous and it amounts to theft. If you give police the power to seize all alcohol you’re going to get that sort of behaviour.”

Islington Council says the move was prompted by calls from residents, and will enable police to crack down on anti-social drinkers and revellers. It is holding a public consultation until May 8.

Councillors and top ranking police officers insist that the measure would not introduce a blanket ban on public drinking, and say most people would not be affected.

They say it would simply allow a quicker response when residents identify areas where nuisance drinking is a problem – without having to apply each time and ending up with a patchwork of controlled zones.