Warning that Anti-Social Behaviour Bill could be 'enormously damaging' for trade

By Ellie Bothwell

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Anti-social behaviour, Local government, Poppleston allen

If approved, authorities will be able to force a pub to shut within 24 hours  for up to 48 hours
If approved, authorities will be able to force a pub to shut within 24 hours for up to 48 hours
Leading licensing lawyers have warned that new legislation tightening closure powers on the licensed trade could be “enormously damaging”, leading to increased police intervention and loss of trade.

The Anti-Social Behaviour Bill, which is set to be introduced in spring 2014, proposes to widen the powers for police to close licensed premises within 24 hours and allow local communities the right to request reviews.

It means police and local authorities will be able force a pub to shut within 24 hours for up to 48 hours, if there has been or is likely to be nuisance or disorder relating to the venue. It may then lead to a closure order, which could last up to three months.

Currently, the equivalent closure notice does not require police to immediately close venues, but allows them to apply to the magistrate’s court for a closure order.

Community trigger

For the first time, the bill also includes a clause on the ‘community trigger’ - meaning there only needs to be three complaints about a premises within six months before the police or local authority are bound to investigate.

If the authorities decide not to act, they must report back to the complainants and give detailed reasons.

Gareth Hughes, leading barrister and director at Jeffrey Green Russell, said: “If residents have the power given to them in this way, we’ll probably see more closure notices because police are obliged to respond and there is a desire for them to be seen to be doing something.

“A closure order could last up to three months and that really is damaging to bars and pubs – it would be tantamount to the end of their existence.”

He said he was concerned that due to other controversial clauses in the bill – including ones relating to dangerous dogs and forced marriages – there has been little debate on these licensing changes, meaning it is “quietly manoeuvring its way through Parliament”.

'Increased risk'

Andy Grimsey, of licensing law firm Poppleston Allen, said the emphasis on community involvement could create “an increased risk” for the trade, and residents who would previously approach their local licensed premises about a problem may now decide it is easier to “put pressure on the police and local council to take action”.

“The trade always needs to be worried about new legislation brought out by this Government with a view to empowering local people and local authorities,” he said.

Related topics: Professional Services & Utilities

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