Red-flagging the ratbags

FOR Newcastle’s pubs and nightspots, under siege because of the city’s terrible record of alcohol-fuelled violence, the best defence is to be proactive.

And since most people seem to believe most of the problems are caused by a very small antisocial minority, the move by five major hotels to collectively ban troublesome individuals makes a lot of sense.

The trick will be making the system actually work.

According to the hoteliers, their new scheme means a person banned from one of the pubs will automatically be banned from Fannys of Newcastle, the King Street Hotel, MJ Finnegans, the Cambridge Hotel and The Brewery.

That must necessarily mean some kind of licence scan, like that used in some large clubs, and a linked computer system between the pubs that can ‘‘red flag’’ a problem patron for all to see.

It may be difficult to police the scheme, in practice, since those problem patrons are likely to try a variety of tricks to beat the system. Those most likely to be banned may also be those least likely to baulk at ‘‘borrowing’’ or faking identification cards, for example.

Another problem may be that banned patrons will simply take their unwanted custom to suburban hotels, causing their trademark mayhem and injury in places less well-equipped to suppress them. It’s hard to see a solution to that potential problem, other than broadening the information-sharing scheme to include more venues.

For the time being, it seems the pubs are probably on the right track.

Some potential offenders might consider the consequences of a broad-ranging ban to be serious enough to make them pull their horns in.

If the worst of the violent minority can be kept at bay the city might be able to start repairing its reputation as a place to have fun, where people don’t have to worry about being beaten up.

And from the pubs’ point of view, if they can change their image they might be able to have some of the more stringent restrictions on their trading gradually relaxed, improving their own reputations and their profitability.

League has a duty

THE NRL, as Knights coach Wayne Bennett points out, loves to tell clubs about their duty of care to their players.

If the league takes the idea of duty of care seriously, it ought to tell referees to stop matches when players are knocked unconscious.

When the Knights’ Kyle O’Donnell was knocked out by Souths prop Sam Burgess on Sunday, the referees let the game go on, prompting criticism from Bennett.

Souths coach Michael Maguire defended the referees, saying ‘‘they looked at the replay and there was nothing in it’’.

But the point is not the legality of the tackle in question. It’s all about the safety and welfare of the downed player.

This is an issue where the NRL needs to take leadership. ‘‘Duty of care’’ is an expression with deep roots in the law of negligence. That’s the veiled warning the league should see in Bennett’s words.