Police in North Wales have been hiring actors to go in to pubs pretending to be drunk and seeing if they can get served. While it is illegal for pubs to serve “drunks”, this kind of agent provocateur tactic does leave a nasty taste in the mouth, and of course it isn’t actually an offence to serve someone who is just pretending to be drunk. (To be fair, the police did make it clear they were not seeking to prosecute any pubs that had served these actors, merely give them a warning)
However, there may well be a divergence of opinion about exactly what constitutes being “drunk”. I would define it as staggering about and being incapable of coherent speech. But some po-faced individuals not used to pubs could easily intrepret someone as being drunk merely when they have become a bit loud and boisterous, so this kind of approach has the potential to rebound on pubs well beyond those recognised as trouble spots. This is a point I made back in December 2007 in a column entitled Spy in the Pub.
(Incidentally, I turned word verification for comments on a few days ago and it seems to have worked wonders in cutting down the amount of spam being received)