Anger over premises classed as businesses rather than households
Publicans will be shocked to learn that their premises are not given the same rights of protection against burglars as other households.
Under the law, pubs are not considered to be homes, even when the licensee's family live in the same building.
The legal loophole came to light when a burglar who broke into a Cheshire pub escaped custody and was sentenced to just 100 hours community service.
Macclesfield magistrates followed the law by the book meaning that even though the burglar tried but failed to gain access to the licensee's domestic accommodation through a locked door, he could only be penalised for entering commercial premises.
If he had broken into an ordinary household the sentence would have been far more severe.
This legal anomaly is likely to leave licensees feeling vulnerable and at risk of attack in their homes.
The licensee of the Inn Partnership-owned Crown Inn in Macclesfield told thePublican.com that he was devastated by the outcome. He did not want to be named for fear of further repercussions but said: "The burglar's broken our hearts. We have to live on site - it goes with the job - but we feel vulnerable. We have bars on the windows and we're locking doors behind locked doors."
Licensees have to pay domestic, as well as commercial, rates for the building - something the licensee of the Crown Inn said he now objects to.
"We pay domestic rates and I would have thought that meant we were entitled to some protection," he said.
The Crown Inn burglary happened in the early hours of June 30 when the licensee, his wife and their three children were asleep in the flat above the pub.
Before he was disturbed, the intruder managed to steal the cleaner's wages which had been left on the back bar and the takings from one of the pub's AWP machines as well as causing £700 worth of damage to a cigarette machine.
Macclesfield magistrates ignored the advice of the Crown Prosecution Service and decided the Crown Inn was a commercial building and not a dwelling, under the 1968 Theft Act. This meant the case did not go to crown court where the matter would have been dealt with by a judge.
Independent barrister David Jones said the magistrates acted according to the law and if the burglar had entered the domestic part of the building the case would have been dealt with differently.However, the case has enraged the trade which is now calling for an urgent change in the law.
John Madden, secretary of the Guild of Master Victuallers, said: "Of course we would consider pubs to be our members' homes and the law should remember there is a difference between pubs and other commercial property because of that fact.
"I think this is an anomaly in the law and there should be a move to look at this with a view to changing the definition of commercial premises to exclude pubs."