High Court upholds pubwatch bans

By John Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Local pubwatch schemes, Judicial review, High court

Pubwatch: High Court upholds bans
Pubwatch: High Court upholds bans
The High Court has upheld the right of pubwatches to ban individuals from their pubs without question — as long as police and councils aren't...

The High Court has upheld the right of pubwatches to ban individuals from their pubs without question — as long as police and councils aren't involved in the decision to ban.

That ruling came today after a judicial review called by builder Francis Boyle after members of Haverhill Pubwatch in Suffolk extended his ban by two years.

JD Wetherspoon, acting as an interested party in the case, sought clarity over the rights of pubwatches to issue bans.

In particular, JDW wanted to know the degree to which police and local authorities can get involved in the scheme before it will be seen as performing a public function, which would put it under far greater scrutiny.

Judge Mackie held that individual licensees have an unrestricted right to exclude anyone, particularly those who they see as troublemakers from their premises.

Similarly, individual licensees have the right to exclude those whom others have found to be troublemakers.

And licensees are entitled to form groups or associations to pool information and discuss matters of common interest and make the exclusion of potential troublemakers more organised and systematic.

The only basis for an argument that bans can lead to judicial reviews lies in the degree of involvement of the public authority and police.

The judge said the operations of a particular pubwatch scheme would not be open to judicial review if the role of the police and other public bodies was limited to that of advice and support.

This is the advice recommended in the Good Practice Guide issued by National Pubwatch.

Melinka Berridge, Solicitor from Kinglsey Napley LLP, which represented Wetherspoons, said: "Given the rapid expansion of local pubwatch schemes in recent years, clarification was needed as to what level of public support is appropriate before those schemes will be viewed as exercising public rather than private functions.

"This is particularly important because in the large those who are involved in the licensed trade are ill-equipped in terms of expertise or resources to be parties to a body which might exercise public functions with all the duties and responsibilities that would entail.

"The impact of this decision will have widespread ramifications for the way in which local pubwatch schemes operate throughout the United Kingdom and in particular will help to define what level of police involvement is appropriate for the continued successful operation of such schemes.

"We are delighted that this decision upholds the widely held belief, at least amongst the licensed trade, that local schemes are essentially private in nature and decisions that are made by such schemes at those which are made by the representatives of the licensed trade."

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