A fit and proper DPS

Related tags Rebel hamish howitt Crime

Smoke ban rebel Hamish Howitt has highlighted another issue of some importance in licensing: who can object to a designated premises supervisor (DPS)...

Smoke ban rebel Hamish Howitt has highlighted another issue of some importance in licensing: who can object to a designated premises supervisor (DPS) and on what grounds?

Blackpool Council has refused to install him as the DPS at his own pub, based on a letter of objection from the police. This is the correct procedure, because they cannot act on their own initiative, whatever they feel about him.

Under the terms of the Licensing Act 2003, they have to wait for the police to show that in "the exceptional circumstances" his application should be refused.

Although the statutory Guidance is not specific, it is clear that the main circumstances envisaged are those connected with licensing and the management of licensed premises. In one sense, the old-style "fit and proper" comes in here, where the licensing justices were asked to consider the qualities of the applicant for a licence and to rule on whether he should be accepted to run a pub.

Objections from the police are rare. In this instance, the main objection was that Mr Howitt was breaking the law in flouting the smoking ban, on the premise that people who break the law should not run pubs. But the police also raised the issue of politics, saying that he had banners and posters on his premises.

How is this a valid objection to a DPS? Was there any evidence that Mr Howitt was not a capable licensee, or had in fact broken licensing laws or threatened the licensing objectives in general?

Clearly, his views on smoking involved what might be termed "civil disobedience" but in all other respects he seemed law-abiding. On the police evidence this law-breaking was clearly a political stance, based on a genuine objection to the legislation, and did not stem from a disregard of existing laws in other areas.

As for the licensing objectives, I think it is important to put the "crime and disorder" objective in context. The objective is in respect of the conduct of licensable activities giving rise to criminal activity or disorder. The licensing authority needs to weigh any objection on this ground against the purposes of the Licensing Act and not allow themselves to be swayed by other considerations.

It should also be remembered that breaching the Health Act is not in itself a "relevant offence" under the Licensing Act and, therefore, cannot go against the personal licence in any criminal proceedings.

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