As I write, I have just finished at Court dealing with some problem premises, acting for the London Borough of Newham, and the process has been quite tortuous. The premises licence was reviewed by Newham’s Environmental Protection Team in February 2017, after a series of complaints from local residents. In addition, a noise abatement notice had been served under section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act. The abatement notice had been breached and, by the time the review was launched by the Local Authority, there had been in excess of 30 complaints of public nuisance at the premises. 47 residents made representations in support of the review, together with the Ward Councillor, and many attended the review hearing.
The premises licence holder was unable to give any good account of himself during the review hearing and the premises licence was revoked. The licensing sub-committee gave detailed reasons as to why they had come to the conclusion they had in revoking the licence.
The premises licence holder appealed that decision, which obviously “stayed” the revocation of the licence and allowed him to continue trading. Due to issues with listing and Court admin, the Appeal did not proceed to a re-hearing until 12 December 2017.
By the time we got to the Appeal there had been a further 60 complaints of public nuisance and 2 instances of statutory nuisance attributable to the premises. This led the Local Authority to seek my advice prior to the Appeal taking place on all of the powers given to the Local Authority under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014. After having a detailed discussion and review of the evidence, the Authority determined to issue a closure notice under section 79 of that legislation.
As a result of the closure notice being served on the premises, an application for a closure order fell to be considered by a District Judge at Stratford Magistrates’ Court on the 20 November. I appeared on behalf of the London Borough of Newham and a closure order was issued for 3 months under section 80 of the legislation. The District Judge felt we had made our case that there had been:
- a regular and continuing nuisance
- 2 breaches of the abatement order
- a warrant for seizure of music amplification equipment executed at the premises
This allowed for the premises to be secured and the operator prohibited from entering the premises, let alone operating from them.
At this stage, the land owner of the building evicted the tenant premises licence holder and further secured the property. We attended in front of District Judge McIvor at Stratford Magistrates’ Court on 12 December when the premises licence holder, notwithstanding being the subject of a closure order and banned from entering the premises until late February 2018, and also evicted from the premises by the land owner, sought to persuade the District Judge that the decision given by the Licensing Authority was wrong in that it was disproportionate and not appropriate to promote the licensing objectives.
After a day of evidence and submissions, which included local residents saying that they had been scared and had their lives blighted by the style of operation, the District Judge agreed with my submissions and dismissed the Appeal. She could find no fault in the decision-making process of the Licensing Sub-Committee at the original review hearing in February and said she understood why the Licensing Authority could have no faith in the operator of the premises. She thought that the situation had got worse since the revocation and the premises licence holder had shown total disregard for the licensing objectives and the neighbourhood.
This is a good example of the amount of work which had to be undertaken by the Licensing Authority and, in particular, by the Environmental Protection team. They had 94 complaints from 10 addresses, of which 19 complaints of nuisance arose from the premises operating outside the permission of the premises licence. The amount of resource used was significant but necessary to support the local residents and Ward Councillor who complained and who gave evidence at the review and the Appeal. The Local Authority were awarded costs in full for the Licensing Act Appeal, however the difficulty in circumstances like this is whether the company which holds the premises licence, and had the award of costs against it, will exist long enough to enable enforcement of that costs order.
It can be seen from this example that, whilst there are tools available for dealing with truly problem premises, it took nearly a year and significant resource to go down the review, appeal, noise abatement notice and closure order route in order for the premises to be finally closed and prevented from causing a nuisance to a wide section of the local community.