29 Has the licensing ACT 2003 affected levels of violence in England and Wales? A systematic review of hospital and police studies

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Abstract

Background

Population-level legislation has been implemented in many countries to try and address alcohol misuse and related harms, including assault. Most violent incidents in the UK are alcohol-related, with alcohol misuse accounting for a substantial proportion of Accident and Emergency Department attendances. The Licensing Act 2003 aimed to reduce alcohol-related crime and disorder by abolishing set closing times and giving local authorities control over premises licensing in England and Wales. Concerns were raised, however, that greater availability of alcohol would lead to increased consumption and violence. This review examines primary research from hospital and police settings to evaluate whether the implementation of the Act in 2005 reduced or increased violence rates in England and Wales.

Methods

We performed an inclusive systematic review of the major biomedical databases. We included original research that evaluated changes in violence rates before and after the implementation of the Licensing Act, including hospital- and police- defined measures for this primary outcome. Our secondary outcome was whether there was change in temporal distribution of violent incidents after implementation of the Act.

Results

We identified 184 studies. 15 studies were included. The evidence was of overall poor quality, with the majority of included studies being uncontrolled before-after studies. 8 of these studies were conducted in the hospital setting, and 7 were from the police setting. Overall, 7 studies found reduced violence rates after implementation of the Licensing Act, 3 found increased rates, and 5 found no significant change. A subset of 9 papers analysed temporal distribution of violent incidents, 8 finding evidence of temporal displacement of assaults further into the early hours of the morning.

Conclusion

This is the most complete analysis to date of the effects of the Licensing Act on violence. There is no evidence for the Act having a significant or consistent effect on community violence rates, either in emergency departments or policing. There is consistent evidence from both hospital and police settings of a proportional increase in late-night violence since the implementation of the Act.

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