High Court rules pub companies not liable for licence breaches

By James Wilmore

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: High court, Premises licence holder, Pub companies, Public house, Judge

Pub companies and landlords should not be liable for licensing offences committed by their tenants, after a landmark ruling in the High Court. Two...

Pub companies and landlords should not be liable for licensing offences committed by their tenants, after a landmark ruling in the High Court.

Two High Court judges upheld an appeal by pub operator Hall and Woodhouse, which was fighting a magistrates' conviction over four licensing offences at one of its pubs.

Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Owen allowed the appeal - and a leading licensing solicitor has called it an "important case" for all tenanted pub companies, as it clarifies the situation.

The case centred around the Hall and Woodhouse-owned Stepping Stones, in Poole, Dorset.

Four licensing breaches had happened at the pub, which the tenant and designated supervisor had pleaded guilty to.

This included playing a karaoke system without permission; allowing drinking in the beer garden after 11pm; members of staff failing to tell people to leave quietly after 11pm and having a fire door propped open while music was playing.

Poole Borough Council had dropped charges against Hall and Woodhouse for "knowingly" allowing the offences to happen.

However, it said as premises licence holder, the brewery was automatically guilty of an offence and should be responsible for any licensable activities.

But the judges accepted that the law is aimed at the actual people allowing unlicensed activities and not the premises licence holder.

Martin Rawlings, director of pub & leisure at the British Beer & Pub Association, which supported the case, said: "This is a very helpful ruling and offers welcome clarification on this issue. We are pleased the judges have agreed with us and accepted our interpretation."

Related topics: Licensing law

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