The Licensing Act 2003 Statement Of Licensing Policy January 2021
If it becomes apparent that the licensed hours and/or the layout or operation of the premises are having a negative impact on the licensing objectives, it is possible that a responsible authority or any other person may apply for a review of the licence.
Reviews of premise licences represent a key protection for the community where problems associated with disorder, public safety or disturbances are occurring which undermine any of the licensing objectives.
The Act provides a range of powers for the Council on determining a review that it may exercise where it considers them necessary for the promotion of the licensing objectives.
The Council may decide that no action is necessary where it finds that the review does not require the taking of any steps necessary to promote the licensing objectives. In addition, there is nothing to prevent the Council issuing an informal warning to the licence holder and/or to recommend improvement within a particular period of time.
The Council will regard such warnings as an important mechanism for ensuring that the licensing objectives are effectively promoted and that warnings should be issued in writing to the holder of the licence. However, where responsible authorities like the Police or Environmental Health Officers have already issued warnings requiring improvement - either orally or in writing - that have failed, as part of their own stepped approach to concerns, the Council will not merely repeat that approach.
Where the Council considers that action under its statutory powers are necessary, it may take any of the following steps:
- To modify the conditions of the premises licence (which includes adding new conditions or any alteration or omission of an existing condition), for example, by reducing the hours of opening or by requiring door supervisors at particular times.
- To exclude a licensable activity from the scope of the licence, for example, to exclude the performance of live music or playing of recorded music (where it is not within the incidental live and recorded music exemption).
- To remove the designated premises supervisor, for example, because they consider that the problems are the result of poor management.
- To suspend the licence for a period not exceeding three months.
- To revoke the licence.
In deciding which of these powers to invoke, the Council will, so far as possible, seek to establish the cause or causes of the concerns, which the representations identify. The remedial action taken will generally be directed at these causes and will always be no more than a necessary and proportionate response.
For example, the Council will be alive to the possibility that the removal and replacement of the designated premises supervisor may be sufficient to remedy a problem where the cause of the identified problem directly relates to poor management decisions made by that individual. Equally, it may emerge that poor management is a direct reflection of poor company practice or policy and the mere removal of the designated premises supervisor may be an inadequate response to the problems presented. Indeed, where subsequent review hearings are generated by representations, it will be rare merely to remove a succession of designated premises supervisors as this would be a clear indication of deeper problems which impact upon the licensing objectives.
Where the Council is conducting a review on the grounds that the premises have been used for criminal purposes, its role is solely to determine what steps are necessary to be taken in connection with the premises licence for the promotion of the prevention of crime and disorder objective. It is important to recognise that certain criminal activity or associated problems may be taking place, or have taken place, despite the best efforts of the licensee and the staff working at the premises and despite full compliance with the conditions attached to the licence. In such circumstances, the Council is still empowered to take any necessary steps to remedy the problems. The Council's duty is to take steps with a view to the promotion of the licensing objectives in the interests of the wider community, and not necessarily those of the individual holder of the premises licence.
It is not the role of the Council to determine the guilt or innocence of individuals charged with licensing or other offences committed on licensed premises. There is therefore no reason why applications giving rise to a review of a premises licence need be delayed pending the outcome of any criminal proceedings.
At the conclusion of a review, it will be for the Council to determine on the basis of the application for the review and any relevant representations made, what action needs to be taken for the promotion of the licensing objectives in respect of the licence in question, regardless of any subsequent judgment in the courts about the behaviour of individuals.
There are certain criminal activities that may arise in connection with licensed premises, which will be treated particularly seriously. These are the use of the licensed premises:
- For the sale, supply or possession for supply and distribution of Class A drugs and the laundering of the proceeds of drugs crime.
- For the sale, supply or possession for supply and distribution of illegal firearms.
- For the evasion of copyright in respect of pirated or unlicensed films and music, which does considerable damage to the industries affected.
- For the purchase and consumption of alcohol by minors which impacts on the health, educational attainment, employment prospects and propensity for crime of young people.
- For prostitution or for the sale, supply or possession for supply of unlawful pornography.
- By organised groups of paedophiles to groom children.
- As the base for the organisation of criminal activity, particularly by gangs.
- In connection with offences of dishonesty, e.g. handling stolen goods.
- For the organisation of racist activity or the promotion of racist attacks.
- For unlawful gaming and gambling.
- For the sale, supply or possession for supply of illicit tobacco and alcohol.
It is envisaged that the Council, the Police and other law enforcement agencies, which are responsible authorities, will use the review procedures effectively to deter such activities and crime. Where reviews arise and the Council determines that the prevention of crime and disorder objective is being undermined through the premises being used to further crimes, revocation of the licence - even in the first instance - will be seriously considered.
It should be noted that it is unlawful to discriminate or to refuse service on grounds of race or by displaying racially discriminatory signs on the premises. Representations made about such activity from responsible authorities or other persons would be relevant to the promotion of the prevention of crime and disorder objective and justifiably give rise to a review.