What is the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001?
It is a new Act of Parliament introducing wide powers to deal with disorderly conduct caused by alcohol.
When does it come into force?
The provisions affecting licensed premises will come into force on a date yet to be fixed by Parliament, but this is unlikely to be before December 2001.
What effect will the Act have on my pub?
It gives the police power to immediately close on-licensed premises associated with public disorder or excessive noise.
Can any police officer close my pub down?
No - a Closure Order has to be made by a senior police officer with the rank of inspector or above.
In what circumstances can he make such an order?
In three different circumstances, i.e. where he reasonably believes that:-
- There is likely to be disorder on or in the vicinity of and related to licensed premises and closure is necessary in the interests of public safety.
- Disorder is actually happening on or in the vicinity of and related to licensed premises and closure is necessary in the interests of public safety.
- Disturbance is being caused to the public by excessive noise from licensed premises and closure is necessary to prevent the disturbance.
How will the police know if general disorder in my street relates to my pub or the other pubs in the same street?
A good question. The idea is presumably that it would be unfair to close a pub down unless it could be shown that the public disorder relates to that particular pub. However, I can foresee difficulties in determining which of a number of pubs in the same vicinity is related to disorder in that vicinity. The police may decide to close down all the pubs or just close the pub which they think has been more related to the disorder than others.
Will I be penalised if I have called the police to deal with a disorder problem?
Theoretically, when deciding to make a Closure Order, the police must take into account the conduct of the licensee or the manager of the premises in question. A licensee should not be penalised for acting responsibly and involving the police promptly, but the vague wording of the Act could result in some injustices and may deter licensees from involving the police when they should.
Will the police have these powers in relation to all premises selling intoxicating liquor?
No - their powers do not extend to registered clubs.
Does the senior police officer making the closure order have to witness the problems himself?
No - he can rely on reports from other police officers or, it would appear, local residents.
Is excessive noise not a matter more appropriately dealt with by the environmental health department of the council?
Up to now - yes. However, the police are now given this new power to close licensed premises without necessarily involving the council, if excessive noise is caused to local residents.
Does a Closure Order have to contain certain information?
Yes - it must specify the premises which are to be closed, the period of closure and the grounds for making the Closure Order. It must also state the effect of Sections 179B to 179E of the Act.
What if it does not?
It would appear that there would be grounds to argue that a Closure Order which does not contain all of the prescribed information is unenforceable. However, if you want to adopt this view, I would strongly recommend that you seek specialist legal advice before deciding to ignore a Closure Order.
When does the Closure Order come into force?
As soon as notice of the order is given to a licensee or a manager of the premises. A "manager" is defined as anyone working in on-licensed premises in a capacity which gives him authority to close the premises. I foresee some interesting debates on this particular issue.
What is the penalty if I do ignore a Closure Order?
If the order has been validly made and you do not close your pub, then unless you have a reasonable excuse, you could be fined £20,000 or imprisoned for up to three months, or both.
Can I continue to serve customers who are in my pub when the Closure Order is served?
I suspect that those drafting the Act did not intend that this should be allowed. However, it could possibly be argued that licensed premises are only to be regarded as "open" if someone enters after the Closure Order has been served and buys, or is supplied with, any food or drink usually sold there. However, again seek legal advice before you risk this!
Does this stop the licensee or manager or a member of his family from purchasing, or being supplied with, food or drink?
No - they are expressly exempted.
Can I sell or supply food or drink different from that which I usually sell or supply to customers?
This is another example of the sloppy wording in the Act. It could (just) be argued that this would not be unlawful. However, yet again, seek legal advice before risking a hefty fine and/or imprisonment.
How long will a Closure Order last?
In the first instance, for up to 24 hours, but it can be extended repeatedly by the police as long as the extension is made whilst the order remains in force and as long as the necessary pre-conditions still apply.
Do the police have to involve the court?
Yes - they must bring the matter before the licensing justices as soon as reasonably practicable. If no licensing justices are available within a reasonable time, the matter must be brought before "ordinary" magistrates. However, the police can cancel the Closure Order at any time before it is considered by licensing justices or magistrates and must do so if the necessary pre-conditions no longer apply.
What can the licensing justices or magistrates do?
They have to apply the same tests that the police did when they originally made the Closure Order to establish whether the pre-conditions still apply. Once they have conducted this test, they can revoke the order, extend it or make any other order they think fit (for example, restricting hours/capacity or prohibiting music). These powers can be exercised by a single magistrate.
For how long can they extend the Closure Order?
They can extend it to the next licensing sessions to take place following the expiry of a further 14 days. Dependent on the timing of your local transfer sessions, this could be quite a long time.
Do the justices have any other powers?
Yes - at the next licensing sessions to take place after 14 days have expired from their first consideration of the Closure Order. They must consider whether to revoke the licence or to attach new conditions. They can only exercise these powers if seven days' advance notice is given to the licensee.
Is there a right of appeal against the justices' decision?
Yes - there is a right of appeal (it would appear by way of re-hearing) to the crown court. However, any Closure Order continued by the justices will remain in force until the hearing of the appeal. Unless the appeal hearing is expedited, this could typically take at least three or four months.
Is there any comeback against the police?
The police are exempted from any liability to pay compensation unless they have acted in bad faith or in a manner incompatible with the Human Rights legislation.
What else does the