Magistrates slate licensing appeal proposals

By John Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Court

Magistrates: harsh words over proposals
Magistrates: harsh words over proposals
Magistrates say plans to force them to send pub licence appeals back to the licensing authorities are "unacceptable". The Magistrates Association...

Magistrates say plans to force them to send pub licence appeals back to the licensing authorities are "unacceptable".

The Magistrates Association slated the proposal in a highly critical response to the licensing reform consultation, putting further pressure on the Government to rethink the issue.

There's "no evidence" that the current system of appealing decisions at magistrates isn't working, the Association says.

And current plans to make magistrates sending appeals back to the licensing authority the "default position" would mean more operators seeking judicial reviews.

Industry bodies have previously argued that the move runs counter to natural justice because it restricts the right of appeal.

The Association questioned plans to give councils more say over closing times, saying: "Closing times are a very blunt instrument in dealing with the issue and could make matters worse."

Draconian sentences

It criticised plans to increase "voluntary" closure periods, agreed by police and operators to avoid prosecution for persistent underage sales, to at least seven days.

"Such Draconian sentences affecting the livelihood of potentially many people should be decided in an open forum of either a licensing committee or a court. It is not the role of police to be sentencers."

Plans to give licensing authorities more responsibility, so they could object to licence applications, would "sever the notion of a degree of independence between the councillors and of the licensing authority and council as a whole".

Loss of objectivity

Similarly, there is a "risk of loss of objectivity" if community groups become "interested parties", as many councillors would be members of these groups.

And the length of licence hearings and appeals could be "considerably lengthened" under plans to remove the need for interested parties to show vicinity.

The Association wants magistrates to regain control of licensing — a proposal not currently included in the consultation.

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