|Criminal Justice and Police Bill
Mr. Hughes: I think that the Minister will respond to that in a moment. I do not know whether the Licensing Act 1964 includes a definition of the word ``drunk''. I presume that it does not. I presume that it is a matter of evidence and case law. Therefore, it is rendered more open to abuse and variable interpretation by magistrates or others who do not require the qualification of a breath test. We are talking about evidence such as singing and being red in the face.
Mr. Blunt: I want to support the amendment and the tone of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. There will be real concern about how broadly the provision can be interpreted. If there is not a statutory definition of drunkennessplainly, there is notthe wide powers that will be given will provide significant opportunity for prosecutions to occur. We must do better for those in the licensed trade, who will have enormous difficulty in enforcing the provision. It is not fair to impose that on the licensed trade without a set definition of drunkenness.
Mr. Charles Clarke: The purpose of the clause is to insert proposed new section 172A into the Licensing Act 1964. It will extend to all staff employed on licensed premises, rather than just the licensee, the responsibility to prevent drunkenness and disorder and not sell or serve alcohol to drunks. Section 174 of the 1964 Act has also been amended so that all staff, rather than just the licensee, would have the right to refuse to admit, or to expel from the licensed premises any person who is drunk, violent, quarrelsome or disorderly. The use of the power will enable all staff to take action to prevent the committing of offences under proposed new section 172A.
The amendments would qualify that significantly. Amendment No. 50 would mean that the relevant person named in proposed new section 172A could only commit the offence of permitting drunkenness or violent, quarrelsome or riotous conduct to take place in licensed premises if he did so knowingly. Amendment No. 49 would provide a new defence, which relates to proposed new section 172A(2), if he or she could show that the person became drunk other than on licensed premises, or that no reasonable person would have believed him to be drunk when he entered.
Amendment No. 50 is answered by the intervention of the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire on the hon. Member for Southwark and Disorderly[Laughter.] I abase myself and apologise to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey. I know that he advises people to run away from burglars, but not, I think, from disorder.
The amendment would mean that the offence of ``knowingly'' permitting drunkenness would differ from the offence of permitting drunkenness under section 172. No justification exists for such a distinction because the use of the word ``permit'', in exactly the way to which the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire referred, implies knowledge. The addition of the word ``knowingly'' is therefore unnecessary.
It is important to understand that proposed new section 172A does not apply to licensees. The offence in respect of holders of justices' licences is contained in section 172 of the Licensing Act 1964, but it is far older than that. It relates to the point about the definition of drunkenness. Case law on the offence goes back more than 100 years. That case law establishes that to permit implies power to prevent, and, therefore, knowledge that the person is drunk. That is the logical use of language that leads us to suggest that the word ``knowingly'' is not necessary.
Proposed new section 172A recognises that it is now not uncommon for pubs to be run by staff who are not holders of justices' licences. Licensees might be absent from the premises, and control might be in the hands of managers or other staff. Alternatively, the spouse of the licensee might be in control. Proposed new section 172A describes a ``relevant person'' as any person who works on the premises in any capacity, whether paid or unpaid, who has the authority to deal with such matters.
Amendment No. 49 would weaken the clause. First, the proposed defence would not be available to licensees covered by section 172 of the 1964 Act. A different regime would therefore apply to a manager running a pub who was not actually a licensee. That does not make sense.
Secondly, those in the licensed trade have known for more than 100 years that it is unlawful for a drunk to enter licensed premises. When the licensee or manager is aware of the drunk's arrival, his presence constitutes an offence. For example, it would be unlawful to serve a drunken person with a sandwich and black coffee, because his presence alone is an offence; he simply must not be there, and that has always been the case. The licensee and his agents are empowered by the 1964 Act to expel such people, and it is the duty of the police to assist them in doing so.
Amendment No. 49 would change the approach to the control of licensed premises; it would be all right to have drunks on the premises as long as they became drunk somewhere else. The law must remain that people who are drunk and disorderly, wherever they became drunk, should not be permitted on licensed premises, and it should be the responsibility of the people operating the licensed premises to keep them out. If they ignore that duty, they should be liable for prosecution.
Finally, the additional test that
The clause is important because the pattern is changing in the way that licences are offered, just as multinational corporations develop. However, we must not allow the change in the structure of the industry to weaken the obligation of the people on the premises, in whatever capacity and whoever they may be, to ensure that drunkenness and disorderly behaviour cannot take place on the premises.
Mr. Hughes: Will the Minister clarify two points of interpretation in proposed new section 172A(2)? First, are the two parts cumulative for the offence to be committed, so that a person has to be charged before it is proved that he or she is drunk? Secondly, will the burden of proving that all reasonable steps have been taken for preventing drunkenness be a ``beyond reasonable doubt'' or a ``balance of probabilities'' burdenin other words, a civil or a criminal burden? If it is a criminal burden, an unfair obligation may be placed on the defendant.
Mr. Clarke: First, the offences are cumulative, as the hon. Gentleman suggests. Secondly, the ``all reasonable steps'' test is a criminal test; I am aware that that is tougher, but I defend that on the grounds that our aim is to recognise the changing nature of the industry and the obligation of licensees to ensure that the situation in the premises is properly supervised.
Mr. Hughes: I have no problem with the public policy issue, but I ask the Minister to think again about the latter point. It is extremely difficult for a defendant to satisfy a bench or jury that he or she took all reasonable steps beyond reasonable doubt. The police will arrive on the scene later; they will not have been there at the time of the events leading up to their arrival. The alleged drunkthe person who caused the problemmay say, ``No, they did not ask me'', or ``I was only asked once''. The landlord must not only say that he took all reasonable steps but prove it in a way that leaves no doubt at all, although he may be the only person present who is on the side of that argument. It may be that no one else is capable of giving circumstantial or additional evidence. I shall not vote against the clause, but I ask the Minister to take advice and consider whether that measure does not add a level of obligation that is not generally the case in licensing law.
Mr. Clarke: I will take further advice, but the public policy issues are important, as the hon. Gentleman has acknowledged, which is why we have adopted our position.
Mr. Heald: I was going to press the Minister to give that assurance about the shifting burden. However, as he gave the assurance, I will say no more. We may want to return to the subject on Report. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments made: No. 124, in page 26, line 13, after `servant' insert `or'.
No. 125, in page 26, line 14, leave out first `or'.[Mr. Charles Clarke.]
Clause 34, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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