Losing a licence is not automatic

By Peter Coulson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Licence, License

Coulson: warning on licences
Coulson: warning on licences
Copyright trade protection agencies will issue warning leaflets about losing your licence but the loss of the licence is not automatic, says Peter Coulson.

More than one of the copyright or trade protection agencies will issue warning leaflets about losing your licence if you infringe their rights.

However, loss of the licence is not automatic. Under the Licensing Act, the courts have a general discretion either to suspend the personal licence of a person convicted of a 'relevant offence' or order its complete forfeiture, which puts that person on what amounts to a five-year ban on holding a licence.

But relevant offences range from serious assault, theft, burglary, drink-driving and contraband to even the most minor offences against licensing laws — and of course, infringements against copyright laws, of which the fraudulent use of a domestic receiver for public viewing is one. It depends entirely what the magistrates or the judge thinks about the matter, and also whether there have been previous offences. It may be decided that the licence should not be affected at all.

Even if an order is made, there is an appeals procedure during which the licence can remain in force. Where the convicted person is also the designated premises supervisor and is a sole trader, loss of the licence would be the end of his business career. Even a suspension places him in grave difficulties.

Some years ago it was reported that the chairman of a leading Midlands bench of magistrates said, on ordering the forfeiture of a justices' licence after the licensee had been convicted for spirits substitution: "Pouring over is theft, and I won't have thieves running my pubs." There is some similarity now with the idea that double jeopardy is OK in licensing, and that you should lose your licence if you transgress any other relevant law.

A distinction should perhaps be made between this recent example, where there was clearly an attempt to get something for nothing, in the full knowledge that you cannot use a domestic card for pub customers, and the hotly debated use of foreign satellite decoders.

Both are currently illegal, and the second is the subject of a current European Court hearing, which could have an interesting result.

The protection agencies are very keen to threaten loss of licences, however, because it gives a stark warning. Whether it will happen in practice depends on the attitude of the judge or bench — and the pleadings of the person in court at the time. It is by no means automatic.

Related topics: Licensing law

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