Detail needed on Government personal licence plans

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Personal licence, Crime

Doubts still remain over the wisdom of some of the Government's proposals
Doubts still remain over the wisdom of some of the Government's proposals
Licensing specialists Poppleston Allen examine three aspects of the government proposals on personal licences.

1. Alcohol sales are to be made or authorised by the designated premises supervisor (DPS) rather than a premises licence holder

I suspect that this will not make too much difference in practice. In my experience, the issue of alcohol sales being “made or authorised” does not lead to much controversy.

At the beginning of the process in 2005 there were horror stories of certain over-zealous enforcement officers shutting pubs down because the DPS had either gone on holiday or popped down the road for a loaf of bread.

Nowadays this issue appears to be moulded by the type of operation involved. For example, the tenanted, independent community pub will be very much a ‘hands-on’ operation and may not need to adopt any form of written authorisation at all because very few staff will be employed.

The bigger organisations, however, and particularly those that are running ‘higher-risk’ late-night entertainment-driven venues, may well have a number of personal licence holders on duty if their premises is large.

They are also much more likely to have due diligence packs with written authorisations, which will probably include every member of barstaff on duty.

In addition (and sometimes ‘enforced’ by a condition), the industry has increased the level of training for all its staff for due diligence and customer-relationship reasons and this is usually at ‘personal licence’ level at least. The industry embraced the benefits of training several years ago.

I am minded to conclude that this particular aspect of the proposed reform is not going to lead to any significant change to the existing operating practice.

2. Allowing police to object to a new DPS based on the crime prevention objective rather than “only in exceptional circumstances”

This does cause me some concern. It is interesting to note that the inclusion of the words “exceptional circumstances” was intended to be a check on police officers seeking to resurrect the old practice of the fit and proper/suitability test; the principle being that if a DPS applicant had the benefit of a personal licence (both conviction-free and trained) then the opportunity for the police to object to this person should be strictly limited.

Again, I would say that this has worked well in practice and the police have still been able to take advantage of this test if — for example —  a relatively recent criminal conviction has come to light that has either: not been disclosed; the criminal court had not taken any action; or the applicant has, to
the police’s knowledge, been complicit in running other premises badly and may have been removed at a review.

I think the risk is that certain police officers may see this as a new opportunity to look for more ‘suitable’ candidates and could seek to bring in evidence about the way the candidate DPS has run other premises — and this may not be terribly reliable.

This could include, for example, disgruntled former customers and police intelligence etc, leading to a form of ‘fishing expedition’ that some of us recall under the old Act.

This would not be appropriate with the way the licensing regime post-2005 was set up, which was to be much more administrative and less discretion-based.

3. The requirement for each new DPS to declare any relevant criminal convictions

I have concerns about how this will wash in practice. Will the police check the applicant’s declaration is correct in every case, or sporadically? However, perhaps it will only be an additional paragraph on the form and not make too much difference in practice.

In conclusion while there may be some elements of the proposals that seem sensible, we do need more detail, certainly in relation to any ‘local training’ initiatives and I retain some doubts as to the wisdom of certain elements of the planned measures.

The consultation closes on 7 November 2013.

Related topics: Licensing law

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