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Reviews, Summary Reviews and Minor Variations….there is more than one way to skin a cat

Wow….it’s been a heavy month. summary reviews, reviews and the mess from the MOBO Awards after-party to deal with. Some really serious issues in such a short period of time.

  • An entire premises erupting, with glass and bottles being used as weapons
  • Kicking, punching and stamping on victims, with the Police having to use pepper spray to clear the fight
  • Glassing of a female customer
  • Multiple stabbing of customers

Each one of these incidents was significant, each was in premises with no track record of enforcement issues and each was dealt with differently by the Police.

The most enlightened approach was taken by the West Yorkshire Police, who jumped all over the premises when the after-party for the MOBO Awards erupted into some of the worst violence I have seen on CCTV in a very long time. We changed the DPS immediately, arranged a meeting with the Police and gave immediate assurances that the promoted event which led to the problems would not be offered again. Because of the immediate reaction by the operator, the previous good track record of the premises and offer to have changes made immediately by a minor variation, the Police did not bring even a standard Review, let alone a Summary Review. Immediate changes, with huge cost savings to the Police and Licensing Authority.

Other cases were dealt with by way of formal proceedings, which had differing outcomes. In one case the Police were keen to pull back the hours of operation of the premises and therefore called a summary review and put pressure on from the outset. The operator didn’t challenge the interim steps application for suspension, as it wanted to have a week to meet with the Police and try and agree a way forward. This was fruitful as conditions were agreed with the Police which were jointly presented to the Authority, meaning the premises were able to open again in the run up to the full Review.

In one of the other cases which went to a summary review, the Police were only wanting additional conditions to be added to the licence—which could have been achieved much more quickly and cheaply if the West Yorkshire Police model had been adapted. Instead, there was a need for three hearings and a month to pass by to get the same outcome, one which could have been achieved by way of a minor variation.

Summary reviews are a very useful tool, but can also be a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Police should not lose sight that the whole process is about the promotion of the licensing objectives. If you have an operator who is keen to work with the Police to eradicate the problems then–unless a revocation or an interaction which will not be agreed to by the operator is wanted—the cat could be skinned much more easily with a little thought at the beginning of the process.

We are not helped by the lack of content in the S182 Guidance on Summary Reviews. I have long said that the Home Office should give clear advice in this statutory guidance document. It is probably the area which has the most potential impact on premises licences and the Guidance is silent. Instead we have the non statutory guidance, which can be found at the following link:

The High Court has commented that this document is not really fit for purpose—drafted by a seconded Police Sergeant rather than a lawyer. We really need more certainty by way of formal guidance in the statutory document.