Published: 21 January 2016
Q: I have managed a premises for 4 years and have always enjoyed a very positive relationship with the local Police Licensing Officer. He used to visit about once every 6 weeks and would have a chat over a coffee. Unfortunately, he retired in August and after some time I have been visited by a new policeman who takes a totally different approach. He came in on a very busy Friday night at 8pm and demanded I drop everything so he could do a licensing check. He identified a problem with the CCTV camera which is not working and said he would issue me with a Closure Notice. He further stated that I did not have to close the premises until the camera was fixed but if I did not I would be committing an offence and he would arrest me. I closed the pub but I am still suffering from the downturn in trade even though the camera was fixed the next day. Can the police wreck my business in this way?
A: The short answer is – no. The Police Officer is incorrect on a number of counts. As part of a national enforcement protocol championed by the Home Office in 2011, Police and Enforcement Authorities were advised that they could use a “Section 19” Closure Notice to close premises in the event of a breach of a licence condition, and further that if the DPS refused he or she could be arrested. We thought this particular approach was long since buried however, we have received several reports recently of premises visited with similar approaches being made by the Police. A S.19 Notice (under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001) enables a Police Constable or local Enforcement Authority to issue a notice requiring you to correct an issue (such as a broken CCTV camera) which may be a condition on your Premises Licence. It is purely a notice; no more, no less. There is no sanction involved and the Police or Authority cannot require you to close the premises until such time as the issue is resolved. The notice merely states that there is an issue which has to be rectified and if the issue is not rectified the Police can go to the Magistrates’ Court to obtain a Closure Order. It is correct to say that continuing to provide licensable activities in clear breach of a condition is likely to be an offence (under s.136 of the Licensing Act) but you cannot be arrested for so doing – under such circumstances, arrest could only be justified if you are about to either injure yourself or someone else or about to commit an arrestable offence. Judgments against the Police (and Costs Orders which followed) had, we believed put an end to threats of this nature using the blunt instrument of the S.19 Notice. Licensees faced with such circumstances need to request immediate legal assistance whilst the Police Officer is in attendance and not bow to requirements which are themselves illegal and unlawful.
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