Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Memorandum submitted by Pauline Wells on behalf of Jeremy Allen (PR 08)

Poppleston Allen is the largest licensing law firm in the United Kingdom. 90% of the firm’s business relates to licensing law and it has made applications in every single Licensing Authority in England and Wales. Some applications have also been made in Scotland. Poppleston Allen act as Licensing Law Advisor to the BBPA and also advise the BII and NOCTIS. In addition Senior Partner Jeremy Allen was involved in all the discussions with the DCMS over the implementation of the Licensing Act 2003. He has since been involved in every working party set up by the DCMS to consider various amendments and improvements to the Act.

We find it interesting that the Government has decided to proceed with legislation when the current system appears to be working fairly well. It is interesting to observe that in a number of areas there have been significant reductions in alcohol related crime where the Authorities have all worked together using the current legislation. As the Home Office Minster, James Brokenshire recently reported Newquay had significantly reduced most of the offences where alcohol was involved. One of our fears is that whilst some Local Authorities will adopt the same line as Newquay and produce significant improvements others may be tempted to go down the enforcement route. If Local Authorities exist side by side then this could clearly lead to a migration from one area to another causing noise and disruption when the people return to their home area. This could also be a significant problem where Local Authorities in the same geographical area treat enforcement in different ways.

We comment specifically on the following:-

· Clause 109 Reducing the Burden:

The effect on Premises Licences of changing the word "necessary" to "appropriate" is, or could be, massive. We are not entirely clear how the word "appropriate" will be defined by the Courts. It is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "suitable or proper in the circumstances" whereas "necessary" is defined as something that is "needed to be done – essential". By way of example, it is clearly unnecessary to impose conditions on a Licence where they are already contained in other legislation but is it also inappropriate?

· Clause 105 Premises Licences:

Who may make relevant representations? The effect of this section is to remove the requirements that interested parties (business or residents) must be in the vicinity. We believe that the current proposal will make it very difficult for Licensing Officers to refuse to accept representations. We believe that the Government could, instead, simply adopt a similar provision to Section 158 of the Gambling Act 2005. This defines an interested party as "someone who, in the opinion of the Licensing Authority which issues the licence, or to which the application is made, is a person who:

a) Lives sufficiently close to the premises to be likely to be affected by the authorised activities;

b) Has a business interest that might be affected by the authorised activities;

c) Represents persons who satisfy a) or b)."

This seems to us to capture anyone who as a genuine interest in commenting upon an application.

· Clause 112 et seq Temporary Event Notices:

The provisions for Temporary Event Notices are clearly much more acceptable as specified in the Bill than those that were set out in the consultation. We question the need to serve the Environmental Health Officer with every application. It is worth remembering that before the Licensing Act 2003, it was possible to simply contact the Police and at very short notice obtain an extension of hours. There were very few objections. Our concern with the Environmental Health Officer, being contacted in advance, is the possibility that some may seek to impose standard requirements on all applications, particularly those where music may be played. Others will not which raises the possibility of a patchy nationwide response. Surely if problems do arise the Environmental Health Officer could simply review the licence with a view to imposing conditions on such functions?

· Clause 118 Persistently selling alcohol to children:

We are pleased that the Government has significantly changed its original proposals by retaining 48 hours as the lowest period of closure. In view of the nature of the offence, we would support the BBPA’s submission relating to imposing a Training Order upon the premises rather than a fixed period of closure. It also seems to us that this provision will adversely affect the on-trade at a time when children, under the age of 18, can obtain alcohol which has been purchased in the off-trade.

· Clause 118 Early Morning Restriction Orders:

It seems to us that although this proposal is intended to be flexible it has the effect of imposing a blanket ban on premises that may be trading perfectly lawfully. If the voluntary approach that was adopted in Birmingham, Doncaster, Nottingham, Newquay and other areas were to be adopted instead, there would be no need for this type of blanket order that clearly adversely affects businesses that have legitimately acquired the right to trade late.

We are also concerned that if an early morning restriction order is imposed in one area e.g. Derby but not in another e.g. Nottingham then a significant number of people may move between the two areas for later entertainment. This would clearly adversely affect the area that had imposed the Early Morning Restriction Order.

· Clause 124 Late Night Levy:

Our main concern with this clause is the fact that it applies to the entire Local Authority area. Local Authorities vary all over the country. Some may only be responsible for one town or city centre. Others may have two or three small towns within them. If a problem exists in one particular town then why should other towns, where no problems arise, have to pay the levy? The same concern applies to country pubs that may wish to trade late but have no problem of crime or disorder. In these circumstances, Licensees paying the levy may never see the Police Officers that it is used to employ.

December 2010