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Policing and Crime Bill

The 2017 act also empowers licensing authorities to revoke or suspend personal licences

The Policing and Crime Bill was given Royal Assent on 31 January 2017, and has now therefore become an Act.  It covers a wide range of measures, but Part 7 specifically deals with elements that relate to alcohol licensing.  Most of these are expected to come into effect on 6th April, and so now may be a good time to review the main points.

Firstly, the status of the Statutory Guidance itself has changed.  Previously, the Guidance had to be “laid” before Parliament for 40 days, ostensibly to allow for debate or comment.  As I understand it, since 2005 no such debate has taken place in respect of the Guidance itself, and the requirement therefore was deemed to serve no practical purpose.  This does not change the legal status of the Guidance – Licensing Authorities must still “have regard to” Guidance issued by the Secretary of State under S182.

The Act also amends the definition of alcohol to include powdered and vaporised alcohol, given developments in the market and some innovative ways in which alcohol is retailed.

Perhaps of more consequence however, are the provisions clarifying the law on summary reviews of Premises Licences.  The confusion hitherto has been the status of interim steps, where the decision at the final review is appealed to the Magistrates’ Court – do the interim steps (for example a suspension of the licence) continue perhaps for several months until the full appeal is heard, or do they fall away at the final review hearing?

Depending upon the facts, this could mean a premises unfairly remaining closed pending the licence holder’s right to have his appeal heard or, if they fall away, a potentially dangerous premises could reopen pending such an appeal.  Neither was ideal, and the 2017 Act now clarifies that the Licensing Authority at the final review hearing can review those interim steps (having heard all the up to date evidence) and make an informed decision with regard to those interim steps, including how long they last.

The 2017 Act also empowers Licensing Authorities to revoke or suspend Personal Licences when the holder is convicted of a “relevant offence”.  Previously, only the Magistrates could do this, but Licensing Authorities are often much closer to the ground in terms of knowing when such offences have taken place and, indeed, their effect on the promotion of the licensing objectives.  If the Licensing Authority is considering this measure, then representations can be made by the Personal Licence Holder and, whilst there is no hearing, there is a right of appeal to the Magistrates’ Court.

Lastly, there are various additional relevant offences added to the schedule in the Licensing Act.
Measures in the 2017 Act that relate to Cumulative Impact Policies and the Late Night Levy are likely to be introduced much later in the year, once the Government has had the opportunity of reviewing the Report, due in March, of the House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003.

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