Joint Committee On Human Rights Minutes of Evidence

Annex F


  1.  The proposed legislative changes are designed to create a licensing framework which provides flexibility for the operator and balances and checks to protect the interests of those persons who may be adversely affected by the operation of licensed premises. Licensing reform is long overdue. An overhaul of our licensing system is required to cope with the demands of the leisure industry at the beginning of the 21st century. Ill-considered legislation however, is likely to lead to uncertainty and chaos and many of the proposals contained in the White Paper lack detail and appear to have potential to create inconsistency, uncertainty and conflict.


  The White Paper suggests that "The argument for licensing people as well as premises is that there needs to be a reasonable assurance that anyone responsible for the sale of alcohol is aware of his or her obligations and is capable of fulfilling them". It is suggested that in addition to the premises being licensed a license should be held by the person running the premises on a day to day basis. This creates a system of personal responsibility by the licensee for the operation of the licensed premises. Although it is suggested that "in very exceptional circumstances, the police should have the right to challenge the right of a personal licence holder to be responsible for particular premises" the White Paper concludes that once someone has a personal licence, this will "authorise the sale of alcohol anywhere which has a premises licence". The White Paper rejects the suggestion that in general terms there should be an assessment as to whether the holder of a personal licence is suitable to operate individual and particular licensed premises. It is suggested that "Businesses which are run incompetently with resulting disorder or public nuisance will, under the scheme . . . rapidly find themselves suffering significant penalties for breaching conditions attached to the premises licence".

  3.  At a time when there is increasing public concern about drink related disorder in our towns and cities many would feel that there is merit in the argument that there should be some prior assessment as to the suitability and fitness of an individual licensee to operate a particular type of premises. Strong and experienced management can undoubtedly have an affect on reducing potential problems of disorder and the ability of the police and the Licensing Authority to ensure that an individual licensee is sufficiently experienced and competent to run potentially difficult premises is likely to be in the public interest. Appropriate vetting of potential licensees prior to them assuming responsibility for individual licensed premises may lead to a reduced likelihood of the necessity for later intervention.


  It is proposed that the various types of liquor licences currently available should disappear and that the manner of operation of licensed premises will be governed by an operating plan indicating the limits within which the premises would be operated. The White Paper proposes that the decision whether to grant a licence, and if so whether to accept the proposed measures to be taken to prevent crime and disorder (which are to be incorporated into the plan) as conditions should be confined to considerations of impact on crime and disorder, public safety and public nuisance. It is proposed that Licensing Authorities should not be able to take into account commercial matters such as the economic demand for a new venue and that the licensing decision should not become a re-run of the planning decision. The Good Practice Guide issued in 1999 by the Justices Clerks Society recognises that it is no longer appropriate for Licensing Justices to regulate the number of licensed outlets by reference to a restrictive policy requiring an applicant to establish need or demand for a new licence. It is however recognised that an overproliferation of licensed premises can add to problems of drink related disorder. There are many who feel that the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor cannot be left to be dictated by market forces. An excess of competition can and does lead to promotions which have the practical effect of encouraging excessive consumption of alcohol eg the promotion of happy hours which encourage drinkers to consume in volume over a short period of time. If such circumstances exist then there is an argument that the Licensing Authority should be able to refuse an application for a new licence even in the absence of objections. Indeed the Good Practice Guide suggests that one of the criteria to be taken into account by Licensing Justices for the grant of a Justices Licence should be that "the number of premises in the area will not be so numerous as to lead to problems of noise and disturbance or disorder."

  5.  The White Paper proposes "a presumption in favour of granting a licence" without a hearing in the absence of objections. The question of over-provision is unlikely to be addressed therefore unless an objection is raised. There may be force in the argument that regardless of whether or not objections are raised to an application for a new licence the Licensing Authority should, of its own motion consider the consequential effect of the grant of a new licence and the question of whether it is necessary, in the public interest, to modify the operating plan or to impose further conditions.

  6.  Under the present system the police are often unwilling to get involved in arguments about over-provision and there is little reason to believe that under the proposed system the police will take a more pro-active role in advising the Licensing Authority as to the effect of the grant of a new licence in the absence of a statutory obligation requiring them to provide such an assessment.

  7.  One of the proposed benefits of the new system is the removal of unnecessary hearings before the Licensing Authority. Under the proposals the nature and scope of the proposed operation will be established by the operating plan. It is natural to expect that an operator (and those advising them) will seek maximum flexibility in the operating plan by incorporating as few restrictive conditions as possible. In many circumstances this is likely to lead to situations of conflict as the operator seeks to maximise his trading potential by presenting an operating plan free from restrictive conditions. In contrast those who are potentially adversely affected by the grant of a licence to premises may seek either to oppose the application or to restrict the operating plan in order to protect their interests. It is reasonable to assume that most operators will desire the potential to trade into the early hours of the morning (particularly at weekends) and that the concerns of residents etc. will be to restrict late hours of operation. It is easy to envisage therefore that there will be frequent contested hearings particularly in respect of applications in sensitive locations.

  8.  In cases where objections are raised both to an application in principle and to the extent of an operating plan the burden of proof is to fall upon "those laying the objection". In practical terms it is suggested that an application should be granted unless the objector can satisfy the Licensing Authority that either the licence should be refused or should be subjected to restrictions greater than those sought by the applicant in his operating plan. There are many who wonder why, particularly in cases involving applications for premises in sensitive locations, the balance should be in favour of the applicant rather than the objectors. This is particularly so in cases where they may be adequate existing licensing provision in that locality.

  9.  The proposals suggest that once granted the licence should remain in force for so long as the business operates or until the licence is revoked or suspended. Interested parties will be entitled to "seek a review of the licence and its conditions" on grounds of "increased crime and disorder, increased public nuisance, new threat to public safety or relevant change of circumstances since the licence was issued". In practical terms, once granted it will be difficult to obtain a revocation of a licence or to obtain restrictions or the imposition of additional conditions upon the licence. There is already power in the Licensing Act 1964 for applications to be made for revocation of Justices Licences. Such applications are, however, rare. They are costly and time-consuming. A licensee who has a vested interest in securing the retention of his licence is often in a better position to utilise his resources to protect his licence than that of eg a residential objector who lacks the resources to prove his concerns to the satisfaction of the Licensing Justices. The burden of seeking revocation or the imposition of restrictive conditions on a licence will fall upon the applicant and experience shows that it is difficult to prove that anti-social conduct in a particular area is the direct result of the operation of any given licensed premises. The existing reluctance on the part of the police to bring applications for revocation and on the part of the Licensing Justices to grant applications for revocation of licences indicates the difficulties that will be encountered by persons seeking to persuade the Licensing Authority that the operation of licensed premises has an adverse effect upon their interests.

  10.  It is arguable that in circumstances where a reasonable concern is raised about the potential for the operation of licensed premises to adversely affect the local amenity the burden of proof should be upon the applicant to prove that a grant of a new licence (on the basis of the submitted operating plan) would not be contrary to the public interest.

  11.  The assumptions in the White Paper that the police (and the Local Authority) may seek a review of the licence and its conditions in appropriate cases pre-supposes that there is a continuing ability on the part of the police to continually monitor and review the operation of licensed premises. The ability on the part of the police to continually monitor and review the operation of licensed premises. The ability of the police to carry out this function would undoubtedly depend upon the availability of resources. Because each licensed premises are likely to be governed by an individual operating plan with different conditions it is difficult to see how the police will be able to properly monitor the ongoing operation of licensed premises and in particular how they will ensure that each premises operates in accordance with its deposited plan unless sufficient resources are allocated to them for this purpose. If the protection of the interests of those potentially adversely affected by the operation of licensed premises depends substantially upon the ability of the police to monitor licensed premises then a significant increase in police resources may be required.


  The White Paper proposes that "the conditions that could be attached to a premises licence would have to relate to the key purposes of preventing crime and disorder, ensuring public safety, protecting children and preventing undue public nuisance." It is anticipated that "licensed premises in residential areas might well have earlier closing times than those in town or city centre locations to reduce noise/nuisance to residents." The proposals, however, do not "envisage in any part of the country that the hours of opening will be any less than they are now". Bearing in mind the assumption that it will be for an objector to satisfy the Licensing Authority that either a licence should not be granted or should be subject to restrictions greater than those intimated in the operating plan, it can be reasonably anticipated that there will, even in residential areas, be a general liberalisation in licensing hours.

  13.  There is little doubt that the existing permitted hours fail to reflect the reasonable commercial demands of operators which in turn reflect the expectations and demands of the public. Indeed the existing permitted hours have given rise to a situation where Licensing Justices frequently turn a blind eye to the restrictions which apply to the grant of special hours certificates under the provisions of Section 77 of the Licensing Act 1964. In their desire to open up trading in town and city centres Licensing Justices frequently adopt an extremely liberal interpretation as to whether intoxicating liquor is sold as an ancillary to the provision of music and dancing and food. Liberalisation of existing permitted hours will be generally welcomed but there are genuine and widely held concerns that a "wholesale" increase in permitted hours carries with it the potential for increased drink related disorder. These concerns need to be properly addressed.

  14.  It is generally accepted that staggered leaving by customers of licensed premises is beneficial and that "longer hours generally" should promote a more gradual drift from licensed premises as customers make for home, and end the unnaturally early race to drink as much as possible before closing time, when many are not yet ready to go". The proposals accept that "It would be open to the police or local residents to challenge the hours of operation described in the operating plan proposed by the operator. If they upheld the challenge, the Licensing Authority would be empowered to attach conditions to the premises licence which involves shorter opening hours than the plan proposed when justified on grounds of preventing crime and disorder or public nuisance. The opinion of the police on the public order effects of different operating plans will need to be given due weight by the Licensing Authority". These proposals envisage much greater involvement by the police than currently exists. Although some police forces do take a pro-active role in their approach to licensing applications many police forces in the absence of specific grounds for objection, currently play a passive part in licensing applications. It is envisaged that "the starting point for conditions should always be the operating plan itself, indeed licence applicants should normally discuss the plan with the authority and the local police before submitting it and themselves propose conditions which the authority could incorporate in the licence or modify if necessary. The process need not be adversarial; it should normally be co-operative". These proposals envisage a situation whereby an applicant will negotiate with the police restrictions/conditions on the operating plan before the application is submitted. In the absence if objections from other interest parties (eg residents) it is doubtful whether many police forces will either have the resources or interest to negotiate restrictions/conditions on operating plans. Furthermore before a consensus is reached between the police and the operator it seems essential that the police should at least listen to and consider objections which are raised by other interested bodies. If an amicable consensus is reached between an operator and the police before the operating plan is submitted then there is a danger that the views of other interested parties will be dismissed by the Licensing Authority who will be influenced by the views of the police which will have been formulated prior to having heard the views of objectors. There is a strong argument for the police being required to provide for the assistance of the Licensing Authority an assessment of the practical consequences of the grant of the premises licence on the basis of the submitted business plan. Any such assessment should be made after representations have been made by all interested parties.


  The White Paper proposes a dual system of sanctions and punishments. It is envisaged that the Criminal Courts will in the event of prosecution be able to punish individual offenders and that the Licensing Authority will be able to examine the consequences of the way in which the premises are operated both with regard to the personal licence holder and the premises licence. It is envisaged that a system of endorsement would be created both of the personal licence and the premises licence and that endorsement will not depend upon criminal prosecution. The White Paper proposes that "breaches of the conditions attached to the premises licence or of licensing law should normally lead to action to be taken by the Magistrates Court (following a relevant prosecution and conviction) or the Licensing Authority (following findings made by the Authority) in respect of both the personal licence holder and the premises licence".

  16.  The ability of either the Magistrates or the Licensing Authority to deal with breaches of conditions attached to the premises licence or of licensing law will depend upon the ability of the police to collate and present evidence. Bearing in mind the burden and standard of proof required in criminal proceedings there seems little incentive for the police (and the Crown Prosecution Service) to embark upon a prosecution in the Magistrates Court in circumstances where effective sanctions can be imposed by the Licensing Authority (perhaps operating under a different burden of proof). If by bringing proceedings before the Licensing Authority endorsement, reduction in hours, temporary suspension or revocation can be achieved then there seems little incentive in all but the most extreme cases in pursuing prosecution in the Magistrates Court. Indeed should a prosecution fail in the Magistrates Court then there may be practical and legal difficulties in then pursuing the matter before the Licensing Authority. One can envisage that prosecutions will become extremely rare and the preferred route of complaint will be to the Licensing Authority.

  17.  The proposals to introduce concurrent personal and premises licences will inevitably lead to situations of conflict. It is proposed that although serious breaches can result in instant revocation (both of the personal or premises licence) the general principle will be "Three strikes and you're out". It can be seen therefore that there will be a natural inclination on the part of a licensee to ensure that his personal licence is not endorsed and an equal desire on the part of an operator to ensure that the premises licence is not endorsed. In circumstances where problems occur in licensed premises then there may be (and often will be) a conflict between the interests of the personal licensee and the operator of the premises licence eg the personal licensee may seek to blame any particular problem on the operator of the licensed premises and seek to persuade the Licensing Authority that he has done all within his power to ensure that the particular problem complained of did not occur. He may seek to persuade the Licensing Authority that if there is to be an endorsement it should be in respect of the premises licence and not in respect of his personal licence. The operator on the other hand may seek to persuade the Licensing Authority that the particular problem was as a result of the fault of the licensee and did not relate to the premises or to the way in which those premises have been conducted generally by the operator. He may seek therefore to persuade the Licensing Authority to endorse the personal licence and not the premises licence. In circumstances such as this both the personal licensee and the operator may seek to be separately represented (and may indeed need to be separately represented) at a hearing before the Licensing Authority. The consequences of endorsement and revocation will often be far reaching both for the personal licensee and for the operator.

  18.  The "effective new system of sanctions and punishments" depends entirely on the ability of the police to bring to the attention of the Licensing Authority problems with regard to the way in which licensed premises are operated. Appendix 6 to the White Paper sets out two scenarios which are designed to illustrate how the system of sanctions and punishments will work. Scenario 1 presents a typical picture of a situation that is commonly encountered by the police. If it is seriously suggested that the sort of situation described in that scenario will result in proceedings before the Licensing Authority then this will require a degree of pro-active policing far removed from that which exists at the present time. The situation presented is one that must be faced by licensees and police routinely at weekends throughout the country and under the present system situations such as this will rarely result in proceedings either before the Magistrates Court or before Licensing Justices. If the police are to become as pro-active as is envisaged in this scenario then I suspect a considerable increase in their resources will be required. In addition there will be frequent (and lengthy) hearings before the Licensing Authority in order to decide whether endorsement/punishment should ensue. It must be seriously doubted whether the police will have the resources/inclination to provide the level of pro-active policing envisaged in the White Paper. If this is proved to be the case then the whole purpose of the proposed legislation would be undermined.


  On 2 October 2000 the Human Rights Act 1998 comes into force. The Act incorporates into Domestic Law the majority of the provisions contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. The significant effect of the Human Rights Act 1998 will be:

    (a)  so far as it is possible so to do, primary legislation and subordinate legislation must be read in a way which is compatible with rights guaranteed under the Convention;

    (b)  in all but the most exceptional circumstances future legislation must be compliant and compatible with rights guaranteed under the Convention; and

    (c)  Public Authorities, which include Courts and Tribunals, must not act in a way which is incompatible with Convention Rights.

    Any new Licensing Act will have to be compatible with the Convention Rights which will be incorporated into Domestic Law by the Human Rights Act 1998.

  20.  Article 6(1) of the Convention provides:

    "In the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial Tribunal established by law".

  Although the European Court of Human Rights has recognised that in some specialised areas of law it may be expedient for an administrative body to make findings of fact and to exercise discretion in relation to matters of policy in circumstances where the safeguards provided by Article 6(1) do not apply, the White Paper envisages the Licensing Authority resolving disputes between interested parties at a quasi judicial hearing. Any such hearing will undoubtedly be called upon to deal with issues which touch upon Convention Rights.

  21.  Persons who maintain that their rights under Article 8 (Right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence) will be adversely affected by the grant of a licence will be in conflict with the desire of an operator to utilise premises to their maximum commercial potential. Where there is a conflict such as this it will be incumbent upon the Licensing Authority to ensure that the hearing of the dispute provides adequate opportunity and facility for each party to properly present their case. It is likely that there will be a particular obligation on the licensing Authority in determining applications which are contested to comply with the requirements of Article 6(1) (particularly in circumstances where the only right of appeal is by way of an appeal on a point of law).

  22.  Further more it is envisaged that the Licensing Authority will be empowered to make decisions which are punitive in nature (eg to order endorsement, suspension, limitation and revocation of the personal/premises licence). The power of the Licensing Authority to make such punitive orders will not be dependent upon prior conviction in a Criminal Court where the full safeguards of Article 6 of the Convention will apply.

  23.  Article 6(2) provides:

    "Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law".

  Article 6(3) provides additional protections for persons "charged with a criminal offence" (including the right to free legal assistance where the interests of justice so require).

  24.  The European Court of Human Rights is not bound by the classification of proceedings by Domestic Law. The mere fact that proceedings (which have punitive consequences) are deemed to be civil rather than criminal by domestic legislation will not be definitive. The European Court of Human Rights in deciding whether proceedings are "criminal" and therefore require the full safeguards of Article 6 will consider:

    (a)  the classification of the proceedings in Domestic Law;

    (b)  the nature of the "offence" itself; and

    (c)  the severity of the penalty which may be imposed.

  If Domestic Law defines the offence as criminal then this will of course be decisive. Where Domestic Law however classifies the proceedings as civil the domestic classification will be "no more than a starting point" and the European Court of Human Rights will conduct an independent assessment of the true nature of the proceedings and in particular will take into account the severity of the penalty which may be imposed. The Licensing Authority will have power to make decisions which will have severe consequences for a licensee and operator. A licensee may be deprived of his livelihood (by endorsement and subsequent revocation of a personal licence) and an operator may be deprived of a high value and remunerative business (by endorsement and subsequent revocation of the premises licence). There is very real cause for believing that the full protections afforded by Article 6 of the Convention will apply to punitive proceedings before the Licensing Authority. This is particularly so in circumstances where a criminal prosecution could have been brought on the same evidence but a decision has been taken to pursue allegations before the Licensing Authority.

  25.  Article 1 of the first protocol to the Convention provides:

    "Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No-one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law . . . The preceding provisions shall not, however, in any way impair the right of a State to enforce such laws as it deems necessary to control the use of property in accordance with the general interest . . ."

  The White Paper proposes that considerable powers should be given to the police to close licensed premises in an area where there is a threat to public order. In particular it is proposed that power should be given to a "police officer of the rank of Inspector or above to close licensed premises without notice for up to 24 hours where disorder is occurring in order to protect the public and prevent further disorder". The White Paper proposes that:

    "Where this power is exercised the Licensing Authority would be required to carry out an immediate review of the premises licence and decide whether or not to revoke the premises licence, or impose sanctions and new permanent conditions. In any case where police concerns about crime and disorder continued, but a hearing by the Licensing Authority had not yet been possible, it would be open to the police to re-apply their powers for another 24 hours. The police would be able to use these powers as often as was necessary in the interests of public order until the necessary hearing had taken place".

  The "immediate review of the premises licence" envisaged by the White Paper will almost certainly have to comply with the requirements of Article 6(1) of the Convention (particularly if the only right of appeal is on a point of law). Where consideration is given to making any decision which may interfere with the rights enshrined by Article 1 of the first protocol (right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions) the Licensing Authority will be under an obligation to afford an interested party the opportunity to prepare his case and to adequately challenge the evidence against him. The requirement to comply with Article 6(1) may mean that it will not be practically possible for "an immediate review of the premises licence" to take place. If, as a result of the obligation to comply with the requirements of Article 6(1) delay ensues in the holding of the "review of the premises licence" then it appears that the police will have the power to close licensed premises for a considerable period. The White Paper proposes that the police should be given "absolute protection from any claims in respect of commercial losses made against them arising out of the use of such powers".

  26.  The power given to the police to close premises will undoubtedly affect the right of a licensee and an operator to "peaceful enjoyment of his possessions" (the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Tre Traktorer Aktiebolag v Sweden (1989) 13 EHRR 309 accepted that the established economic interests in connection with the running of a business attracted the protection of Article 1 of the first protocol even though they did not constitute "property rights" as a matter of Swedish Domestic Law).

  27.  Article 1 of the first protocol does of course allow interference with property rights where such interference is in the public interest. In order to justify interference with property rights it is necessary not only to establish that such interference is in the public or general interest but that the interference must be proportionate. The European Court of Human Rights has consistently held that there must be a reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed (to protect the public interest) and the aim sought to be realised. In a line of authorities the European Court of Human Rights has held that a fair balance must be struck between the demands of the general interest of the community and the requirements of the protection of the individuals fundamental rights under the Convention. It is at least arguable that powers given to the police to close premises (without interlocutory review) against the background of absolute immunity from claims in respect of commercial losses is disproportionate and offends against Article 1 of the first protocol. This is particularly so where absolute immunity is granted regardless of whether the steps taken by the police were justifiable or even reasonable.


  The White Paper proposes that there should be a limited right of appeal against the decision of the Licensing Authority and in particular that "the appeal process should therefore provide an opportunity for mistakes in law to be put right rather than for the body dealing with the appeal to review the case from scratch and substitute its own judgement for that of the Licensing Authority on the merits". It is envisaged that the appeal would be heard by the Crown Court.

  29.  The European Court of Human Rights has held that the failure of an administrative Tribunal to fully comply with the requirements of Article 6 (Right to a fair hearing) can be remedied by an appeal mechanism which incorporates the full protections of that Article. If, however, there is to be a limited right of appeal from the decision of the Licensing Authority then there will be a particular obligation on that Licensing Authority to ensure that its proceedings comply with the requirements of Article 6. It is unacceptable for a Licensing Authority to proceed with its decision making process without affording to interested parties the full protections of Article 6 in circumstances where the only right of appeal is on a point of law. If, by way of contrast, however, a right of appeal by way of a re-hearing of the merits of the case is available then the obligation of the Licensing Authority to comply with the requirements of Article 6 may be relaxed.

  30.  If it is seriously proposed that there should be a limited right of appeal only on a point of law then the Licensing Authority must ensure that not only are the full protections of Article 6 afforded to interested parties at the initial hearing, but that there is an adequate record kept of the evidence and arguments put forward at the initial hearing. Only by having access to an authoritative note of the evidence can an appellate Court properly review the decision making process undertaken by the Licensing Authority. If it is envisaged that the appeal will only be available on a point of law it is crucial importance that the Licensing Authority in the exercise of its discretion has access to proper legal advice.


  The White Paper proposes that the responsibility for liquor licensing should be transferred from Magistrates to the Local Authority and indicates that there is "a strong and inescapable link between planning and licensing premises where people gather to drink and be entertained". Whilst this is undoubtedly true there is a corresponding link between the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor and crime and disorder. Licensing Justices also sit as Magistrates hearing criminal cases and are very familiar with the sort of public order problems which are associated with the sale and consumption of alcohol. It is envisaged that intervention by the Licensing Authority will occur when noise/nuisance and disturbance result. These are problems that will also manifest themselves in criminal proceedings before the Magistrates Court and there must be a strong argument for allowing the regulation of licensed premises to remain with Magistrates who on a day to day basis will be dealing with problems of nuisance and disturbance (often drink related) in their locality.

  32.  Furthermore Magistrates invariably have considerable experience in resolving in an impartial way conflicts between parties to a dispute. Such disputes are likely to continue to occur in licensing cases.

  33.  The White Paper suggests that:

    "Provided that the new arrangements can be set up in such a way as to ensure that the Local Authority acting as a Licensing Authority worked in a procedurally fair and consistent way, and that the factors to which it should have regard are well defined, convincing arguments against the choice of Local Authorities as Licensing Authorities are hard to find".

  Many people will disagree with this proposition. Anecdotal stories about the injustice of proceedings before Local Authority sub-committees are too numerous to be lightly dismissed. It is the experience of many practitioners that Local Authority sub-committees frequently act in a procedurally unfair and inconsistent way (there are of course notable exceptions).

  34.  The transfer of responsibility for liquor licensing from Magistrates to Local Authorities will inevitably require the provision of considerable additional resources to Local Authorities in order to enable them to properly carry out their responsibilities for regulating and monitoring the operation of licences and licensed premises. Many believe that the conflicts of interest which inevitably occur in the field of liquor licensing means that the scope for conciliation is limited and that contested hearings will continue to occur. The understandable desire to extend permitted hours in licensed premises will inevitably increase the potential for dispute and the need for the Licensing Authority to ensure that interested parties are given adequate opportunities to present their case in a fair and balanced way will mean an inevitable increase in the workload of licensing sub-committees.

  35.  If the transfer of responsibility takes place then there will need to be a radical process of education and training of councillors who should be entitled to expect full support from trained legal advisers. There are many who doubt that a smooth transfer of responsibility can take place without the provision of considerable additional resources. To transfer responsibility from experienced Licensing Justices with existing access to quality legal advice to an inadequately trained and resourced Local Authority sub-committee cannot be in the public interest. Such a step can only increase the potential for the sort of inconsistency, uncertainty and conflict which the proposals contained in the White Paper are intended to prevent.

Martin F Walsh

10 July 2000

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