Licensing Bill brings access all ages

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Children set to have increased access to pubs by Deborah McCallum of's legal team of experts from London solicitor Joelson WilsonThe...

Children set to have increased access to pubs

by Deborah McCallum of's legal team of experts from London solicitor Joelson Wilson

The new Licensing Bill will change the way in which children are given access to licensed premises.

Under the present system, a children's certificate is required if children are to be allowed into a bar. Licensing justices currently have discretion to stipulate an earlier terminal hour than the latest terminal hour of 9pm allowed by statute.

Children's certificates have attracted a lot of criticism because of the onerous conditions that have often been attached to them.

The Licensing Bill will abolish children's certificates and children will generally be allowed access to any part of licensed premises (whether or not accompanied by an adult). However, licensees will not be obliged to allow children to enter their premises. Licensing authorities will be able to restrict child access by imposing conditions on a premises licence specifying the parts of the premises that they consider to be unsuitable for children.

Licensing authorities will also be able to impose a complete ban on children entering any particular licensed premises.

Premises that currently have a children's certificate will be entitled to have a premises licence issued during the transitional period maintaining their current rights.

In addition to allowing increased access to licensed premises for children, the bill will introduce a number of new offences that relate to the sale of alcohol to under-18s.

For the first time, the bill makes it an offence for individuals aged under 18 to buy or attempt to buy alcohol. Anyone found guilty of this offence could be faced with a fine of up to £1,000.

The bill will make it an offence for an individual to sell alcohol to under-18s. Anyone found guilty of this offence could be faced with a fine of up to £5,000. Any person charged with such an offence will be obliged to produce their personal licence to the court or to notify the court that they hold a licence. If convicted, it is possible for the court to forfeit a personal licence or suspend it for up to six months.

The bill provides a defence of due diligence for alcohol sales made to under-18s in certain circumstances, provided that the person charged can prove, among other things, that:

  • he believed that the individual purchasing the alcohol was over 18
  • he took all reasonable steps to establish the age of the individual
  • nobody could reasonably have suspected from the individual's appearance that he or she was aged under 18.

In order to establish this defence, an individual would need to prove that the person in question was asked for proof of his or her age.

The type of identification shown would also have to be capable of convincing someone that it was authentic. It would be best, therefore, to insist on some form of photographic ID, such as a driver's licence or passport. I am sure that many of you already ask for such identification from apparently underage customers.

The bill provides some limited situations in which it will be legal for under-18s to consume alcohol on licensed premises where:

  • the person purchasing the alcohol is over 18
  • the individual for whom the alcohol is bought is aged 16 or 17
  • the alcohol sold is either beer, wine or cider
  • the alcohol is to be consumed with a table meal
  • the individual is accompanied at the meal by someone aged over 18.

Related topics Licensing law

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