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"PUB CRAWL TO CHALLENGE LAW" - MP HEMMING

19-11-2007

Birmingham MP John Hemming is proposing a pub crawl as an act of civil disobedience following reports that West Midlands Police are planning to spy on boozy customers. Hemming believes that a clampdown on innocent drinkers has already started after a recent incident at one of his favourite watering holes.

The Birmingham Mail reported on Saturday that the local constabulary has been given a Home Office grant to launch an undercover Christmas crackdown on licensed premises suspected of allowing customers to become intoxicated.

Apparently, they can use powers in the 2003 Licensing Act to issue on the spot fines - and will be targeting premises in the city centre, Handsworth and Lozells.

Hemming is aghast at the idea and is promising to raise the issue in parliament. He is also advocating a pub crawl as an act of defiance - which The Stirrer is only too happy to support.

"We need to have a pub crawl as an act of civil disobedience" he said. "As far as I'm aware it's not a crime to be drunk and if it is it shouldn't be.

"If people try and drive when they are drunk or behave badly that's obviously wrong. But it's the behaviour that should be condemned not the mere act of drinking. They've gone too far."

The choice of Handsworth and Lozells as the focus for police activities outside the city centre also seems curious to say the least, since neither is primarily known for a heavy drinking culture.

Hemming observes: "They can't stop people shooting each other, so they'll stop people getting drunk instead. It's just silly."

One of his local pubs, the Prince of Wales in Moseley has already been targeted by a police and local authority Joint Task Force.

They sent a warning letter last month to the landlord Keith Marsden which has been seen by The Stirrer. It reports (shock! horror!) that "there is clear evidence in the premises…of numerous people who are drunk/intoxicated."

Well, I never. People who are drunk in a pub? Whatever next?

Hemming comments, "this is all part of the same problem" that the Mail highlighted. Marsden's local councillor Martin Mullaney is now calling for an investigation into how the Joint Task Force operates.

Following similar incidents at other Moseley pubs including the Duke of York and the Village, Mullaney says "there is now a strong anti-police feeling within the customers of the Prince of Wales pub who feel the police were heavy handed and unreasonable."

In an episode that highlights the absurdity of the situation, landlord Marsden even persuaded three customers to walk in a straight line in his pub garden to prove that they were, in fact, sober.

You couldn't, as they say, make it up.

Should it be a crime to be drunk?

At what point should the police get involved? Leave a comment on the Message Board.

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