How Durham banned mulled wine | Good intentions, bad policy

Mulled wine is illegal in Durham. I realise that this is shocking news for residents of this fine City.

I have worse news. Baileys hot chocolate is illegal too.

You can drink it at home, but publicly the sale and consumption of mulled wine and Bailey’s hot chocolate are against the law. But only in Durham. The sequence of events which led to this terrible situation are a classic example of how good intentions lead to bad policy.

For the last few years Durham has had an increasing problem with public drinking. Mostly this is linked to homelessness, and has caused incidents of anti-social behaviour. That’s what happens when you have 9 years of a Tory Government. In the charming words of Durham Constabulary “alcohol consumption linked to vagrancy”. Durham, like lots of smaller towns and cities is suffering from the decline of mainstream retail, and anything that puts off shoppers is bad news

In July 2019 the Council passed a Public Space Protection Order to prohibit consumption of alcohol other than on licensed premises. One of the particular prohibitions concerns “open container sales”, for example, selling beer in plastic glasses to drink while wandering around the City.

I understand why the ban on open container sales is an important part of the PSPO, but there is one massive problem with it: there isn’t anywhere in Durham where you can buy beer or wine to drink while wandering around. It is a ban on something that doesn’t happen. It is well meaning, but not well thought through.

There is however one situation in which open container sales do happen. People sell mulled wine and Baileys hot chocolate at Christmas markets and festive events.

Durham Constabulary have decided that if they allow the consumption of mulled wine or Bailey’s hot chocolate they are sanctioning the contravention of the PSPO. As a consequence they have banned them:

This is what happens when people introduce rules without thinking through the consequences. Just because something is a bad thing that doesn’t mean that their has to be a law or a by-law to stop it. There are other ways to deal with it. Sadly the other ways cost money, and budgets are tight. Something has to be done, so laws get passed, because politicians and public bodies need to be seen to act, but lack the resources to do so.

I contacted Licensing and Legal Services at the Council to try and get a copy of the PSPO so I could find out what the actual rules are, and why they had been introduced, but no-one could supply me with a copy of it. The only PSPO listed on the Council’s website concerns dog poo.

If I ever get a copy of the PSPO I will let you know. The Council is obliged to publish these documents, but somehow this one has slipped through the net.

Just goes to show that Whitehall doesn’t have a monopoly on bad policies with unforeseen consquences. Voters would respect politicians, and public bodies, more if they accepted that some times decisions have consequences they didn’t anticipate, and take steps to correct them, rather than just insist that they are always right and the rules are the rules

Of course if you want to do something about homelessness which is a bit more positive you could always donate to Shelter instead:

Merry Christmas!


I was able to get hold of a copy of the actual order from the Council

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.