This study examines changes to the night‐time economy of Hartlepool in the north east of England following the introduction of the Licensing Act 2003. It shows that later opening hours led to later drinking, which in turn led to later violence, criminal damage and antisocial behaviour. Over the period examined, violence against the person fell by 14% in the town centre between the hours of 8pm and 4.59am, while criminal damage fell by 15% and antisocial behaviour increased by 4%. Extending the licensing hours would appear to have contributed to a more moderate (4%) reduction in violence against the person, resulting from a reduction in violence between midnight and 1.59am (the previous closing time) and a smaller increase between 2am and 4.59am. Using the same approach, criminal damage and antisocial behaviour saw small net increases over the same period. Both licensees and partner agencies perceived that changes were detrimental to the town centre. Existing powers at the time of the research appeared to be insufficient to address these problems, which affected the whole of the night‐time economy area rather than individual premises. However, new proposals for extended early morning restriction orders would allow local authorities to revert to the opening hours in place prior to the Licensing Act 2003.
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