Posted by Woods Whur | Licensing Law

Are expedited reviews the only tools available for dealing with problem premises, or should they be reserved for only the worst-offending premises? I think that they are the tool of last resort and should be reserved for situations where there are no other routes open.

I have been involved in a summary expedited review this week, which I felt could have been dealt with without the need for formal proceedings to have been launched. I know I’ve written about this topic before, but I think it is worthy of a reminder.

The circumstances of my case were that the police launched a summary review of the premises licence where they did not feel that the Designated Premises Supervisor was supporting them in excluding known criminals and drug dealers from the Premises.

My client has a number of licensed premises (including others within the same licensing authority) which had not caused any difficulty. He has always had a clean bill of health and has always been seen to be a responsible operator.

The premises in question had a Designated Premises Supervisor managing the premises whom the police had lost faith with. They had asked him to undertake certain initiatives and, in particular, look to exclude known drug offenders from the premises. His answer was that he did not think that they were dealing drugs on his premises and that he could control them. Unfortunately, he had also not been attending Pubwatch meetings when asked to do so.

Matters came to a head when a significant drugs deal was seen to be happening in the doorway of the premises – the premises still being open two hours after they should have closed.

The Managing Director of the Company who deals with licensing issues for all of his premises was unfortunately out of the country when the summary review was launched, and the interim steps decision by the Licensing Authority was to suspend the Premises Licence.

Not pleasant circumstances to come back from your holidays to!

My client instructed me to review where they were in the proceedings and to speak to the police and the Licensing Authority.

As a responsible licensee he accepted my advice that we should not challenge the interim steps by making representations against them until we had had an opportunity to talk properly to the police and the Licensing Authority Enforcement Officers to see exactly where they were coming from.

We managed to set up a meeting with the Police Licencing Officer, Local Neighbourhood Police Officers and the Licensing Authority Enforcement Officers and it soon became apparent that the issues were significantly directed towards the day-to-day management of the premises by the Designated Premises Supervisor, who had not been following company procedures.

A course of action was agreed, in that the Designated Premises Supervisor would be removed from the premises and only be replaced by someone that the authorities felt was suitable to manage premises that have had these issues.

Rather than just a paperwork exercise of submitting an application form for the new Designated Premises Supervisor, we offered that any potential candidate should be seen by the police and the Licensing Authority in a formal interview to assess his or her ability to run premises which needed to exclude the problem element that started to congregate there. The police thought that this was a positive initiative and we undertook that the Premises would not be open until a suitable person was found, to the satisfaction of the police and Local Authority.

A number of additional conditions were agreed to be placed on the premises licence and a joint position was agreed to be put before the Licensing Sub-Committee.

This was an exceptionally good example of a responsible operator working properly with the enforcement authorities to ensure that a positive outcome could be achieved, to ensure that the premises could reopen in such a way that they would be promoting the licensing objectives.

My only issue with this is that all of that could have been achieved by way of a minor variation. There had been no pre-application conversation with our clients, who would have agreed voluntarily to close the premises until the Designated Premises Supervisor was replaced and additional conditions attached to the Premises Licence by way of a minor variation.

This would have saved a significant amount of money both for the Police Licensing Authority and, of course, my client.

I can understand at times that the route to summary review is the correct decision to make. This, particularly, where there is an immediate need to close premises due to the fear of continuing serious crime and/or disorder and in the case of an operator who would not be prepared to close the premises voluntarily.

In addition, I have always advised police forces that I have represented over the years to go down the route of a summary expedited review, if the criteria to commence the proceedings are made out and if the desire iss to close the premises immediately by way of interim steps and seek revocation of the Premises Licence at the subsequent final review of the premises licence.

However, I think there is always merit in taking one’s foot off the gas before launching such proceedings to determine what it is that is desired as the end result. In my case, considerable sums of money could have saved, as the operator has undertaken to do, through the summary review proceedings, what it could have done voluntarily, without the proceedings be launched.

I am always happy to discuss the content of my articles and if there is anything in this piece which either police enforcement officers or operators would like to discuss with me, then please do not hesitate to contact me at paddy@woodswhur.co.uk or on 07738 170137.