Posted: Tuesday, 18 March 2014 @ 11:23
In my last blog on the subject I looked at the current powers to close premises. So what is coming up next?
The current government is attacking anti-social behaviour and is looking to give more powers to individuals to hold authorities to account on their response to complaints. We have already seen this philosophy implemented in the changes in recent years to the Licensing Act 2003 to widen the objection and review procedure for Premises Licenses and Club Premises Certificates. The government also wish to strengthen the powers of police and licensing authorities to temporarily close premises causing nuisance or involved in disorder.
Under the Licensing Act 2003 the police have the power to issue a Closure Order requiring the premises to close for up to 24 hours if there is or likely to be disorder and the closure of the premises is necessary in the interests of public safety. The order comes into effect when it is served, but the Police must apply to the Magistrates’ Court to consider the closure order, and the Licensing Authority must then carry out a Review of the Premises Licence. But note that these powers are only available where there is a disorder and public safety scenario, and an application must be made to the magistrates' court.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill is currently going through Parliament and could become law this spring. It is designed to consolidate closure powers for all types of premises, not just those licensed to sell alcohol.
The new Closure proposals likely to become law:
Closure associated with nuisance or disorder will have 2 stages. First of all a Closure Notice which may be issued by the police (rank of inspector and above) or the local authority. The test is that the person issing the notice must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that use of particular premises has resulted in or is likely to result in nuisance to the public or disorder near the premises, and that the Closure Notice is necessary to prevent the nuisance or disorder from continuing, recurring, or occuring.
The closure can be for a period of up to 24 hours, and can be extended for a further 24 hours by the police (rank of superintendent or above) or chief executive of the local authority.
An initial Closure Notice for up to 48 hours can be issued by the police (rank of superintendent or above) or chief executive of the local authority.
The Closure Notice can be tailored to exclude specific individuals or group of individuals. There is a requirement for prior consultation and notification to the owner of the premises.
The Closure Notice can be cancelled, but if it remains in force an application for a Closure Order must be made to the magistrates' court within 48 hours. A Closure Order can be for a period of up to 3 months. A Closure Order can be extended but not beyond 6 months. As an alternative the court can if it does not make a Closure Order extend the Closure Notice by a further period of up to 48 hours. The court must notify the licensing authority of any Closure Order made.
A Closure Order can be discharged by application to the magistrates' court, and any decison relating to a Closure Order can be appealed by application to the Crown Court within 21 days of the decision appealed against.
There are provisions for enforcement of Closure Orders, and disobeying a Closure Order is a criminal offence. Anyone who has sufferred financial loss as a result of a Closure Notice will be able to apply to the magistrates' court for compensation.
This could be the runaway horse (excuse the pun) causing grief to licensed premises operators. It will give power to local residents to pressurise the police and licensing authorities to pursue a Review of a Premises Licence or Club Premises Certificate, even if there is a very low number of complaints. It may also have the effect of disengaging dialogue between the residents and operators.
It is proposed that victims of persistent anti-social behaviour are able to request that relevant authorities undertake a case review. An individual, communities, or businesses, can apply and a case review must be undertaken if the threshold is met. The threshold is set by the authorities, but the default threshold is only 3 complaints.
The outcome of the case review by the relevant authority who have received the complaint must be notified to the applicant . If the authority makes representations to any other authority, for example the licensing authority, that authority must have regard to the representations in carrying out their public functions. So in the case of a Premises Licence or Club Premises Certificate, a licensing authority or indeed the Police are most liklely to initiate a formal Review of the licence under the Licensing Acxt 2003, and the outcome of the case review will be a strong influence on the outcome.
So this could not only cause problems for licensees, it will also increase the workload of the licensing authority and police. Power to the people will come at a cost.
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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