All licences have a mechanism of appeal if a decision is made which you feel is not acceptable. Most appeals go to the magistrates court and if so, then there are particular procedures that have to be followed. It is not always necessary to engage the services of a licensing solicitor who is expert at undertaking appeals, but attempting an appeal with no experience is a very difficult and therefore frequently unsuccessful thing to do if you have no experience.
Many appeals have provisions which mean that the decision being appealed is suspended until the court has reached its own verdict.
You should bear in mind that with most licensing appeals ;
- There is a limited period of time to appeal – normally 21 or 28 days from the date of the original decision, depending on the type of licence.
- The appeal usually has to be made in a particular format, called a ‘complaint’, which spells out why the appeal is being made and what was considered to be wrong about the original decision.
- With most appeals, you now need to be able to show that the original decision was wrong. This has not always been the case.
- The appeal considers the matter afresh – it as if any previous hearing never took place
- Written statements are usually needed from witnesses
- The procedure in court may be different to the initial hearing
- The magistrates may come to the same decision or a different one. This decision may be what you want, but you need to be aware that it could also be one that you do not.
Sometimes, it is possible to reach agreement as the appeal progresses and there is no need to proceed to a full licensing appeal hearing. In these cases the matter is normally dealt with by a ‘consent’ or ‘compromise’ order.
Magistrates have the power to award costs as they see fit – this can mean that if you win, you may get some or all of your costs back but following a number of judicial decisions over recent years it is sensible to assume that you will not. Normally, costs awards against a local authority are only made if the authority as behaved unreasonably or irrationally in the appeal process. If you lose, you should be prepared for an order which means that you have to pay some or all of the other parties costs.
Appealing a licensing decision is therefore something that you should consider carefully and some people decide to take out an insurance policy in case things go wrong.
We recommend that if you are considering appeal, you talk the matter through with an expert licensing solicitor before you make your final decision. Because it is so important, we offer a short period of free informal advice or a fixed-fee consultation.