Opening hours dispute goes to the High Court

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Related tags: High court, Judge, Wirral peninsula

A landmark legal challenge to overturn a decision to cut a pub's opening hours will be heard in the High Court this week.In what is believed to be...

A landmark legal challenge to overturn a decision to cut a pub's opening hours will be heard in the High Court this week.

In what is believed to be the first legal challenge to a magistrate's decision on opening hours under the Licensing Act, Daniel Thwaites has won the right to a judicial review into a decision by Wirral magistrates to cut hours at one of its managed pubs.

The Saughall Hotel in Saughall Massie on Merseyside was granted a licence by Wirral Council to remain open until 1am on Friday and Saturday and midnight from Sunday to Thursday with the introduction of the Licensing Act in November 2005.

Members of the Saughall Massie Village Conservation Society feared the new hours would lead to disorder and excessive noise. It was thought that troublemakers from local pubs that had not been granted extended licences would migrate to the area.

Magistrates ruled in the residents' favour and cut the pub's opening hours in April 2006, five months after the later hours had been introduced.

However Thwaites will contest the decision on Monday (March 10) - claiming it was based on speculation rather than evidence.

Paul Howarth, retail operations director of Thwaites said of the decision to appeal the decision in the High Court: "It's been very expensive for us but we feel that we need to make a real mark here.

"It's not necessarily about the hours, as in fairness there is only one hour at stake. There is a need for the magistrates' decision to be evidence based and not based on speculation or possibilities."

David Kirwin, senior partner at Kirwans Solicitors - representing the villagers - said: "The hearing in London will be hugely important for giving guidance to local authorities, courts, the police and brewers in future cases of this nature.

"I think this [the case] is a sledgehammer to crack a little nut. I think it knocks a further nail in the coffin of 24-hour drinking and it's a serious nail."

The verdict of the case will be closely watched by the industry.

Barrister Anna Mathias from licensing law specialists Joelson Wilson & Co said: "It will set a precedent in terms of speculative decisions and could restore the test in the legislation to what it is supposed to be.

"Speculation is not enough. There has to be some empirical evidence."

Related topics: Legislation

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