A study, carried out at the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology and published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, focuses on violent crime and flexible alcohol licensing in Manchester in the two years before and two years after the introduction of the Licensing Act in late 2005. The study finds no evidence that changes to licensing legislation had any effect on levels of violence. The 2003 Licensing Act - introduced in November 2005 - allowed pubs, clubs and off-licences to apply for later licensing hours beyond the traditional 11pm cut-off. It was based on the belief that staggering the point at which people were forced to stop drinking would reduce confrontations and therefore street violence. Researchers used data from Greater Manchester Police and the Local Authority to compare recorded rates of violence with licensed trading hours in wards across the city from February 2004 to December 2007 - roughly two years either side of legislative change. While some premises kept the previous closing time, others started to sell alcohol later into the night. Researchers investigated the extent to which licensed closing times had become staggered in neighbourhoods across Manchester after the Licensing Act was implemented. On average, there was between 27-32% reduction in the concentration of closing times on weekdays and between 48-53% on weekends. Following the implementation of the Act, average trading times increased between 30 to 45 minutes per premise on weekdays and by 1 hour and 20 minutes at weekends – far lower than was anticipated. After cross-referencing police records of street violence with changes to licensing hours across the city, the researchers found no evidence that increases in alcohol availability had any association with increases in levels of violence. The authors state that opportunities to generate better evidence about the effects of the flexible licensing policy may have been missed due to the lack of government attention to monitoring and evaluation. “While the emphasis on change and improvement should be encouraged, the enthusiasm to act needs to be balanced with careful and systematic attempts to understand the implications and effectiveness of these interventions,” Humphreys said.