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Summary Reviews / Interim Steps: 2016 The Headache Continues

Regular readers of my articles will know that I have a major issue with Summary Reviews and interim steps.

The process of Summary Review was introduced into the Licensing Act 2003 by way of the Violent Crime Reduction Act and was not part of the primary legislation when it became effective in 2005.

Issues still exist with the standard review of a premises licence, in that the sanctions of a review are not immediate. This being the case, you can understand why there was a need to bring in a fast track review process to deal with problem premises.

One of my issues has always been the overuse of Summary Reviews when they are being commenced in situations where a minor variation, with a proactive operator, could achieve the same ends.

My other issue is that there is a difficulty in that the legislation is clumsily drafted. I have complained for years that the Home Office, and DCMS before it, have not included guidance on the process in the Section 182 Statutory Guidance document.

The only document that exists is an attempt to assist the police in bringing about a Summary Review, and the Licensing Authority in dealing with the process is:

This is a wholly useless document. It was criticised by the High Court in the case of Sharanjeet Lalli v The Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis (1) The Council of the London Borough of Newham (2) [2015] EWHC 14 (Admin) as being inaccurate. It wasn’t written by a lawyer, but instead by a seconded police officer at the Home Office and it beggars belief that nine years on from the introduction of Summary Reviews we still do not have statutory guidance to deal with interim steps and the process of Summary Review.

It is the only major area that is not covered in the statutory guidance document and yet it can be the most impactful in relation to the immediate removal of an authorisation to sell alcohol and can lead to the loss of a premises licence.

My concerns were raised again this week when I was involved in a Summary Review in Leeds. I can’t say too much in this article about that case as it looks like there will have to be an appeal to rectify the final decision.

One of the issues which may need to be addressed is that we lodged a representation against interim steps which was heard immediately before the review.

At the interim steps hearing, the authority overturned the initial suspension of the premises licence with a suspension for one month to deal with a number of structural and operational changes to the premises.

However when we got to the final review position the authority imposed a two month suspension rather than the month that was imposed 15 minutes earlier in the representation against the interim steps hearing!

As this is an ongoing case I will say no more but watch this space.

Interestingly we are finally going through a process of consultation on Summary Reviews and interim steps.

At the end of that I hope, for all concerned, that the Home Office is finally prepared to offer some statutory guidance in the Section 182 document.

As soon as I have anything further to add I will of course bring that to everyone’s attention.