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Fail to Prepare and be Prepared to be Fail

One of the first things I was taught as a trainee solicitor twenty seven years ago was preparation, preparation, preparation. This was brought in to stark reality yesterday when I appeared at Waltham Forest Magistrates’ Court to represent the London Borough of Newham to defend an appeal against the revocation of a premises licence. The circumstances were that the premises had been visited on three separate occasions since the licence had been granted and on each of those occasions there had been multiple breaches of conditions which had led to Section 19 Closure Notices under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001.

During the third visit non-duty paid bottles of spirits were found at the premises. An Environmental Protection Act Abatement Notice had been served in relation to the illegal use of barbecues in the outside smoking area which had led to complaints by residents; and finally, the premises were seen to be open and serving alcohol and food outside their hours of authorisation.

No reasonable explanation was given to any of these breaches or the seizure of non-duty paid alcohol when the review came before the licensing authority and a revocation had been the sanction, with very clear reasons as to why the licence had been revoked being given by the authority.

The premise licence holder appealed the revocation of the premises licence and the matter was heard before the court in Waltham Forest.

The appellant was represented by a firm of solicitors who had instructed counsel to appear on the appeal.

Things didn’t start well for the appellant as neither the appellant or counsel were at court when the matter was called on at 10:00.

At about 10:30 counsel arrived but did not have a hard copy of our paginated bundle and hadn’t prepare sufficient copies of their own bundle for the court and witness box. Always nice when the opposition are so poorly prepared!

The case really went downhill from there as the appellant could not satisfy the court that the five breaches on the Section 19’s had been rectified. One of the highlights of the case was that the premise licence holder gave evidence that the Jagermeister that had been sized by the officers was not ever sold at the premises even though their menu showed Jagermeister on offer for sale at £2.50 a shot.

The case unravelled when the manager of the premises couldn’t even tell the court what the licensing objectives were – even though he said he was receiving training twice a week.

The court did not retire for long before coming back to dismiss the appeal and award full costs against the appellant.

It is rare indeed to be involved in a case where the evidence produced at the appeal by the premise licence holder is worse than the evidence produced at the review hearing.

Any operator who is dealing with an appeal at the Magistrates’ Court should always be focussed on dealing with the issues which brought about the review in the first place. Whenever I’m acting for the premise licence holder in these circumstances we would always focus on all of the issues disclosed in the review documentation and deal professionally with any exhibited inability to promote the licensing objectives.

There is no excuse in circumstances such as this not to get your preparation right so that you can deliver a compelling case to the Magistrates’ Court.

All of the case law surrounding appeals, and in particular the case of R (on the application of Hope and Glory Public House Limited) v City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court [2011] EWCA SIV 31) point to the fact that the burden is placed on the appellant to satisfy the court on appeal that the decision below was wrong.

An appellant will always face an uphill struggle if he is unable to satisfy the court that the issues which brought the review are now resolved and that the operation promotes the licensing objectives.

It was, as always, satisfying to be involved in such a case – even more so when my licensing officer witness gave me a dozen eggs from his chickens to take home.

Pancakes for the kids in the Whur house this morning!