Alcohol minimum pricing by Police coercion

Posted: Monday, 21 June 2010 @ 15:29
Alcohol minimum pricing by Police coercion

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Back in March I blogged on the new mandatory conditions which came into force on 6 April. One of these conditions was a ban on irresponsible promotions.

But remember the overiding requirement with the irresponsible promotions condition, that even if a promotion falls into one of the listed categories (see my earlier blog) or a similar category, to be in breach of the condition the offending promotion must be designed to encourage the sale or supply of alcohol and in a manner which carries a significant risk of breaching the licensing objectives. Many Police forces and Licensing Authorities appear to have lost sight of this overriding requirement, and treat any promotion which falls into one of the listed categories as a breach of the condition.  

The response of some sectors of the trade has been to bypass this condition by simply lowering prices overall on a permanemt basis to compete in a very difficult market. So what has been the reaction of the Police? To "persuade" local licensees to a agree to a "voluntary" code fixing the minimum price of alcohol. The Morning Advertiser has reported that such an "agreement" in Brighton has fixed the minimum price at £1.50 a drink. Some outlets were selling at £1.

So what is the effect of such an "agreement" entered into under Police pressure? There is no legal effect at all. And a refusal to bow to Police pressure, such as reported by Wetherspoons in Brighton, is perfectly in order. The only weapon available to the Police is to descend on the premises with a microscope, and look for offences and possible reasons to initiate a Review of the Premises Licence. But well run and law abiding premises need have no fear. The Police or any person or authority wishing to initiate a Review would have to have evidence that the premises are being run in such a way that the licensing objectives are being undermined. With the pricing issue, there would have to be evidence that the low prices are the cause of any problems on the premises. To remind you, the 4 licensing objectives are the prevention of crime and disorder, the prevention of public nuisance, public safety, and the protection of children from harm.

I have reports that In Swindon the Police are also trying to "persuade" licensees to agree to voluntary codes. It is essential that anyone faced with such pressure should take legal advice. The Police are not the law makers, they are the law enforcers, and they can often adopt a heavy handed approach to problems which can usually be best sorted by the experienced trade operators.

Nigel Musgrove

Licensing Law Specialist

Blog by Nigel Musgrove
Nigel has been providing dispute resolution advice as a solicitor for over 35 years. As well as advising SMEs and business owners on disputes he also offers a specialist licensing law service. View profile
Call Nigel on +44 (0)1285 847 001 or by email
This blog is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor is it intended to be a complete and authoritative statement of the law, and what we say might be out of date by the time you read it. You should always seek legal advice to confirm whether or how any information in this article applies to your particular situation. We offer a free telephone consultation to discuss your particular circumstances.

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Thank you. Your response is great, very straight to the point! Hopefully this will bring an end to the matter. I will certainly be recommending your services as I am very impressed with the prompt dealing of this matter.
Janet Burbidge

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