Posted: Friday, 20 June 2014 @ 12:56
The industry seems to be getting itself into a bit of a pickle over the Government’s recent proposed hike of maximum fines for various offence relating to alcohol and the Licensing Act 2003. Reading the comments you would think that underage drinking had been specifically targeted. It hasn’t.
The fines hike applies across the board to all offences which have their maximum fines defined by a tariff, between Level 1 and Level 5. It just so happens that most offences relating to alcohol and children have a Level 5 penalty, where the previous maximum was £5000, and the offences now carry unlimited fines.
In reality very few prosecutions occur. The Police tend to issue fixed penalty notices against the offenders, and where there are repeated offences relating to specific premises this is usually followed by an application for a formal Review of the Premises Licence. Only in the most serious cases do the Police prosecute, and even then the sentencing Magistrates will adopt an appropriate sentence according to the circumstances. I doubt that there have been many instances of a maximum fine of £5000 being imposed, and I suspect that the approach to sentencing will not be greatly altered by the power to impose an unlimited fine.
New PASS proof of age scheme
The scheme, first introduced in 2003, has been re-launched with a new standardised card which should remove the confusion previously reported with the scheme when various cards could be used provided they had the PASS logo. The Home Office is urging all licensed premises to accept the new cards.
For details, go to the PASS website by clicking here.
Powers of Entry
The draft Code of Practice for using powers of entry first saw the light of day back in January 2013. The Government has now informed the Publican’s Morning Advertiser that it intends to introduce the code this year. Essentially inspections must be impartial and fair, and at least 48 hours written notice must be given with reasons for the visit and explaining the powers to visit and the rights of the occupier. It is hoped that this will address the issues faced by some venues which are the subject of repeated unannounced visits, often at the busiest of times, with an adverse effect on the business concerned.
For details of the Code click here.
New Statutory Guidance
Following the introduction of minimum pricing as a mandatory condition on a premises licence authorising the sale of alcohol, the Government has on 4 June issued a new Statutory Guidance.
The Guidance also sees an amended Chapter 16 to give clarity to licensing authorities on the process of introducing an Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO).
There are a number of other minor changes, for example to make it clear that applicants for a personal licence do not have to be resident in England and Wales, and a warning that other licences may be necessary under other legislation for use of copyright works by playing music or showing films.
For the Guide click here.
Licensing Law Specialist
Tel: 0845 003 5639
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
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