Dorset PCC candidates clash over Bournemouth's 'stag culture'

Image caption,
Nick King, Rachel Rogers, Andy Canning and Martyn Underhill are standing for election in Dorset

Dorset candidates for police and crime commissioner (PCC) have clashed over Bournemouth's "stag and hen culture".

Independent candidate and ex-detective Martyn Underhill said residents were worried about the behaviour of large same-sex groups coming to the town.

He said if he wins on 15 November he will work with other agencies to shut down more problem venues.

But the other candidates have argued against a tougher approach which could damage the night-time economy.

Mr Underhill said: "I have issues with the stag and hen culture here, and I think that has got to go.

"Pubs and clubs - there are too many by far in my view. One of my first tasks is to work with Bournemouth Borough Council to look at licensing."

There are about 800 licensed premises in Bournemouth, which has a large student population and is popular with weekend revellers.

Mr Underhill said any moves had to be taken with care as to not threaten the night-time economy.

The new PCC will not have any powers to close licensed premises but he or she can object to licensing applications.

Councillor David Smith, Bournemouth's member for the night-time economy, said the authority was doing "everything within the law" to reduce anti-social behaviour in the town, including shutting a handful of nuisance premises.

"We have some issues with the night-time economy, but I don't think it's a disaster," he said.

Nick King, Conservative candidate and former landlord in the town, said: "Closing establishments isn't in the gift of the PCC, nor is it the answer.

"The PCC can encourage further co-operation between the police and council to change the late night drinking culture causing the problem.

"Venues should be made more responsible for their clients."

Labour candidate and former prison governor Rachel Rogers said: "I think the role of the PCC is to work effectively with police and community safety organisations to ensure premises are properly licensed, monitored and managed.

Image caption,
There are about 800 licensed premises in Bournemouth

"It is definitely not the role of the commissioner to shut down venues that essentially are a really important part of the night-time economy of Dorset.

"If any PCC candidate wants to do anything about this then they need to deal effectively with regulation, monitoring and policing of these organisations, not just using the police."

Liberal Democrat hopeful Andy Canning, current Mayor of Dorchester, said: "I think the important thing is to keep a sense of perspective.

"Where they are problems it should be dealt with but we should not be draconian in our approach and risk damage to the economy of Bournemouth.

"I think the law as it is today is perfectly adequate to deal with problems and where it gets out of hand."

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