Families planning on attending next week’s Hallowe’en festivities in the city can rest assured that safety and a family friendly atmosphere will be high on the agenda.
The City Council and the PSNI will be working closely to stringently enforce Derry’s street drinking byelaws.
Back in October 2009, legislation was introduced which prohibits the consumption of alcohol in any public place in the city.
Damien McMahon, City Solicitor, says that, since then, more than 260 notifications have been received relating to offences committed. Of these notifications, 90 formal cautions have been signed and 64 summonses issued with a number of cases pending.
Fines fines ranging from £15, £25, £50 & £80 have been imposed.
Mr McMahon says the byelaws, which prohibit the consumption of intoxicating liquor in designated streets and public places across the City Council area, greatly assist Council when organising large scale family events such as the Banks of the Foyle Hallowe’en Carnival.
“The byelaws empower Council to prosecute those found to be in breach of legislation in co-operation with the PSNI and enable us to enforce a safe and alcohol free environment across the city at events such as the Hallowe’en celebrations and help encourage more families to come along and enjoy the event in a safe and alcohol free environment,” he said.
Karen Phillips, Derry City Council’s lead officer on the Carnival Care initiative - set up some years back to address the issues around underage drinking and irresponsible drinking in the city - believes the byelaws are one of many positive developments in helping create a safe atmosphere in the city.
“We have come on leaps and bounds over the past number of years in terms of dealing with the issue of alcohol. If you think back to five or six years ago and how Hallowe’en in the city was perceived – the event was associated with the misuse of alcohol.
“Look at us now and how far we have moved forward. Council, rather than cancelling the event, took the initiative to work closely with other statutory agencies to address the issues and work collectively towards changing attitudes, talking directly to young people and parents to create a better understanding of the issues relating to underage drinking and its consequences, not only for the young people involved and their families, but the entire community.
“Thanks to the introduction of the byelaws and the successful multi-agency approach through the Civic Alcohol Forum and the Carnival Care Initiative, Hallowe’en now has a family friendly focus and the public image of the event has been transformed and has successfully led to dramatic reductions in crime and disorder related to the event.”
Damien McMahon says that prosecution is not the only option and each case reported to Council is dealt with on its own merit. He says that many young offenders, for example, are dealt with by the police under their Youth Diversion Programme.
Details of this year’s 25th Banks of the Foyle Hallowe’en Carnival celebrations are available online at www.derrycity.gov.uk/halloween and details of the carnival initiative and how to enjoy the celebrations safely are available at www.derrycity.gov.uk/care
This includes general information on fireworks and costume safety and advice on alcohol consumption.