Has the Licensing Act 2003 affected violence rates in England and Wales? A systematic review of hospital and police studies

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Violence has been declining in the UK for two decades, with most assaults being alcohol related. The Licensing Act 2003 (England and Wales) aimed to reduce alcohol-related crime, giving local authorities control over premises licensing. We performed a systematic review of original research with the primary outcome of change in violence rates since the Act’s implementation, including hospital-defined and police-defined measures of violence. Our secondary outcome was temporal distribution of violence. Fifteen studies were included, which were of overall poor quality. Seven found reduced violence rates after the Act’s implementation, three found increased rates and five found no significant change. A subset of nine studies analysed temporal distribution, eight finding displacement of incidents later. This is the most complete analysis to date of the effect of this Act on violence, finding a lack of reliable evidence to answer the research question, but little to suggest that the Act has markedly impacted already-declining violence rates.

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