We were up in Bolton recently, and although we avoided the worst of the bad behaviour along the main drag, we did have a close up view of a couple of doormen persuading an unwanted guest to leave a pub in a hands-on fashion. Given the coverage in the columns of the Lynn News about similar incidents recently, it set me thinking about how to persuade people to behave appropriately.
I spent most of my working life in education, where pupil discipline was a recurring topic. Over the years lots of different schemes were tried and every so often we would change the forms to be filled in, the reporting process or the list of rules and sanctions, and all would be well until it came to the crunch and they had to be enforced, which meant actually challenging a kid or parent about behaviour. For a system to be effective, someone had to front up and explain that the rules were to be obeyed. I liken it to an episode of Happy Days when Ritchie threatened to punch someone for not doing the right thing, and had been laughed at. The Fonz explained that for threats to be effective, you had to have carried them out at least once. Contrast that with Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. When he was newly elected to the post of Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, one of his senior commanders Janos Slynt defied his orders. Too late, Slynt thought better of his decision and whimpered his apologies and regrets, but it did him no good as Jon Snow beheaded him for disobedience. I am guessing that there will be a new found determinism for the men of the Nights Watch to follow orders in future.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating beheading for drunken behaviour on Norfolk Street in the early hours of the morning, but I do think that if the laws were upheld on a consistent basis and the penalties applied, much of the problem could be alleviated. There are a range of options available for dealing with public drunkenness including short term imprisonment, on the spot fines and barring orders. It is also an offence to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk. Given the wonders of modern technology, such as CCTV or just plain observation, it ought to be possible to work out from which bar the drunks emerge. If need be, why not have a few plain clothes Peelers mingle with the crowds in the bar to check if offences have occurred? A fine or temporary closure could then be enforced against offending establishments. In my experience, the severity of the fine is not always the main consideration. The fact that a penalty is applied and enforced establishes who is in charge and encourages respect for the rules. I think most landlords would prefer sensible drinking on their premises and if they don’t, they are probably in the wrong job. I would hope that once drinkers realise that there is a good chance they will be caught and punished for anti-social drunken behaviour, and that landlords know they risk a fine or closure for supplying the alcohol, a new level of acceptable behaviour will be established. So, let’s resist the temptation to keep tinkering with the laws and stick to enforcing what we have at the moment. As Voltaire said of the execution of the British Admiral Lord Byng for ‘’failure to do his utmost” to relieve the siege of the British garrison on Minorca, ‘’it is wise to kill an admiral from time to time to encourage the others.”