A number of different bodies enforce licensing law, depending on the type of licence. This can include the local Council, the Police, the Gambling Commission and Trading Standards officers. In most areas, there is a protocol in place to show how overlaps are dealt with.
Enforcement powers extend from a verbal warning through to prosecutions and injunctions. The precise power that will be used will depend on the circumstances and prosecutors are required to have regard to their own enforcement policy and a document known as the ‘Code of Conduct for Crown Prosecutors’.
Just because an offence has been committed does not mean that a prosecution will take place. There are various matters that have to be taken into account and in particular the ‘public interest’ in taking action. We have experience of challenging enforcement action where it appears to be unreasonable or oppressive.
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Licence Reviews are a way that an interested party or a Responsible Authority can ask the Council to place limitations on a licence that has already been issued in relation to alcohol sales, entertainment or gambling, to suspend it or to revoke it all together. With alcohol sales, there is also the option of the expedited review. If you are facing a review, you should obtain advice from a licensing solicitor as quickly as possible.
Applicants for review must complete a form and provide evidence to show what problems exist. this might include videos, photographs or witnesses. There is no application fee and costs cannot be awarded at the end, even if you should win.
The process takes place in front of the Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee, normally a panel of three elected councillors. These councillors have fairly wide ranging powers and can decide :
- To modify the conditions on the licence
- To remove the Designated Premises Supervisor
- To revoke the licence for up to three months
- To revoke the licence completely
The matter may also go to court on an appeal if there is disagreement with the Council’s decision by anyone who was involved in the review.
If you are the holder of a licence that is being reviewed, please click here for further information, or if you would like help to apply for a review of a licence, please click here or alternatively give one of our solicitors a call.
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If the police take the view that the sale of alcohol is taking place in a premises which is associated with serious crime and/or serious disorder, they can apply for an expedited (also called ‘summary’) review.
The licensing authority can decide to take interim steps whilst waiting for a full review and these include ;
- modifying the conditions of the premises licence;
- excluding the sale of alcohol by retail (or other licensable activities) from the scope of the licence
- removing the designated premises supervisor from the licence
- suspending the licence.
An expedited review takes place very quickly after it is applied for: Within 48 hours, the authority must give the licence holder a copy of the application and decide what steps, if any, it wishes to take. These steps come into immediate effect and cannot be appealed, although the authority can be asked to reconsider them at a hearing. If the authority decides to keep the measures in place, no appeal is possible at this stage.
Within a further 28 days, the licensing authority must hold a full review and make a further decision on the licence. At this stage, the option of revoking the licence is also available.
Our solicitors have a great deal of experience at dealing with expedited reviews and can represent you in front of the licensing sub-committee.
If you should find your licence the subject of a review, you should take legal advice as soon as possible from an expert licensing solicitor as this is an extremely serious matter.
There are a number of notices that can be served on a licensed premises and we have experience of all of them. In particular, we have dealt with s19 ‘Closure Notices’ that are served on licence holders under the Criminal Justice & Police Act 2001.
These notices are served where a police officer considers that alcohol is being sold in a way that is unauthorised. This may be because there is no licence in force or because a condition on the licence is not being complied with.
The service of the notice does not close the premises, by the police can apply after seven days to a court to ask them to order a closure. We have dealt with both notices and closure orders in court.
A factsheet has been produced by the Home Office on s19 closure notices, which can be downloaded by clicking on the image to the right.
The ultimate sanction for operating without a licence or breaching licence conditions is that of prosecution.
Not only is there the potential of a fine, but the impact on your business can be devastating as a result of adverse publicity. For some licensing offences, there is also the possibility of a prison sentence, but this is rare.
Once any investigation is completed, the first step in prosecution is that a summons will be served. This requires an attendance in court to enter a plea of ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’. Often, this hearing can be with just a few weeks notice.
It is best that you contact us before any summons is issued because this offers the best prospects of success. Our advice is to call us the moment that you are cautioned or invited for an interview during the investigation.