Reduced hours for Dunstable off-licence alleged to have been catalyst for crime wave

A Dunstable off-licence alleged to have been the catalyst for a crime wave in the town centre has had its licensing hours reduced.

Beds Police referred to several incidents near Prestige Express on High Street North in its application to CBC for an expedited licence review.

Prestige Express

Prestige Express

These included two stabbings, assaults, several fights in the High Street, as well as the throwing of fireworks and one occasion where drunk males were urinating in a doorway.

In a letter to CBC, Bedfordshire Police’s licensing officer Leanne Kirsop said: “It is extremely rare for this police force to seek an expedited licence review.

“This is an indication of the seriousness of the issues regarding drunkenness, assaults, public order and violent disorder.

“There is a history of events occurring on a Friday and Saturday night from 10pm to 4am.”

At a meeting of CBC's licensing sub-committee on January 9, licence holder Ibrahim Karamanoglu denied these ongoing issues were triggered by his premises alone.

Although he did agree there is a problem with youths congregating in the town centre.

"[Mr Karamanoglu] strongly believes this is not caused by any single venue”, his barrister Duncan Craig told the licensing sub-committee.

“He thinks this is a wider problem that requires more intervention from the authorities and the whole business community..

“Everyone needs to work together to make sure Dunstable town centre is a safe place for people to live, shop and enjoy themselves.

“There was no meaningful evidence to back any of the allegations up.”

Prestige Express was due to have its licence suspended last month after the police asked for a review following an associated serious disorder, according to a report to councillors.

Mr Karamanoglu objected to this on December 20, and a hastily arranged sub-committee meeting was held on Christmas Eve.

It was decided at that meeting to remove the licence suspension, but restrict the opening hours of Prestige Express to 10pm in the evening.

The premises was licensed to sell alcohol daily from 8am to 4am the following morning.

After the full review of the licence on Thursday, January 9, councillors cut the period when alcohol can be sold at the premises by two hours to 2am, although it can stay open until 4am.

The following conditions were also added:

> An incident book to be maintained

> More detail to be added to the refusals register

> Training records to be maintained

> A personal licence holder to be present at all times when alcohol is sold

> No sale of alcohol in unsealed containers for consumption off the premises

> Security industry authority (SIA) door staff on Friday and Saturday from 11pm to 4am

Licensed premises have to report any criminal incidents to the police and should have CCTV installed to comply with licensing conditions, the report stated.

In her letter to CBC, Ms Kirsop added that gangs causing anti-social behaviour was intimidating for local residents and nearby businesses and staff.

“There have been incidents reported to police where knives have been seen by victims of crime," the letter stated. “Should these issues continue they will escalate, resulting in serious harm.”