Rum deal: Lewisham becomes a drinking control zone

The personality susceptible to the dream of limitless freedom is a personality also prone, should the dream ever sour, to misanthropy and rage.
— Jonathan Franzen, Freedom

Why so many of us a million years ago purposely knocked out major chunks of our brains with alcohol from time to time remains an interesting mystery. It may be we were trying to to give evolution a shove in the right direction -- in the direction of smaller brains.
- Kurt Vonnegut, Galapagos

Lewisham Council has introduced a borough-wide drinking control zone, which gives the police the power to stop you if you are drinking in a public place and behaving in an anti-social way. The idea proved highly controversial when it was mooted, but it appeals to Brockley Central's more authoritarian instincts, though at a heavy price. Not the loss of liberty so much as the introduction of more street signs.

While there are strong libertarian arguments against any such measures, the freedom to drink in public with impunity results in parts of the borough that some people don't feel comfortable walking through, which is an infringement of their own freedom.

For most people, we suspect, the key question will be how sensibly the police use these new powers, if indeed they bother to use them at all, which is presumably why the measure is only a short term trial at this stage. Here's the Council's announcement:

A Designated Public Place Order (DPPO), commonly known as a drinking control zone, has been put in place across the borough of Lewisham following consultation with residents and businesses during the summer.

The scheme will run until the end of February 2011. The Order will give police discretionary powers to stop people and confiscate and dispose of any alcohol within the boundaries of Lewisham borough.

Following the end of the DPPO, Lewisham Council and Lewisham Borough Police will review the effectiveness of the Order to see whether it should be introduced permanently across the borough.

The DPPO is not a ban on alcohol consumption in a public place, and does not make drinking in public an offence, but it is a measure that can assist in tackling street drinking linked to anti-social behaviour. The intention is to provide police with a tool to address alcohol-related disorder in a quick and effective way. Failure to comply with a request from the Police to hand over alcohol can result in arrest and/or a fine of up to £500.

New signs are currently being installed in areas around the borough to remind people they are in a controlled alcohol zone.

The powers are not intended to disrupt peaceful activities. They will be used to tackle nuisance, or annoyance associated with drinking alcohol in a public place. It is not a criminal offence to drink alcohol within the designated area (within the boundaries of Lewisham borough). An offence is committed if a person refuses to obey a police officer’s request to stop drinking.