Sarah Clover, licensing barrister at Kings Chambers, said police often present evidence that is unrelated to the pub in question because they do not want to go through the “time consuming and expensive process” of checking whether there is a connection between incidents and licensed premises.
She said it is not a conspiracy on behalf of the police but pubs are often noted in incident logs as a landmark rather than as the crime scene. Those incidents can eventually form part of police representations against the premises in a licence review.
“I see this time and time again. It’s a consistent problem and it shows no signs of slowing down,” she told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser.
“Police should put a red marker against the incidents that are the responsibility of the premises for the purposes of any further investigation. The alternative is, when it comes to a review, [the police] sit there for hours and go through the logs very carefully.”
Last fortnight, the licensee of Blu Bar in Burnley, Lancashire escaped a reduction in the venue’s opening hours, after Burnley Borough Council’s licensing committee ruled crime and disorder referred to by Lancashire Constabulary had “no causal connection” to the bar.
The police presented 70 pieces of evidence relating to 40 incidents, including assaults inside and outside the venue, and claimed mismanagement by the licensee. However, after investigating licensing consultant Gill Sherratt and Clover, both defending the bar, found that four incidents had occurred inside the premises.
Licensee Frankie Musso said: “95% of what they claimed was untrue. And it cost us an absolute shedload of money.”
Following pressure from the police since he took on the bar in July 2013, Musso said he stopped all drinks deals, hired three extra door staff to patrol the streets in the surrounding area and introduced a “rest and recovery centre” where customers can sober up, but he said the police were determined to reduce the pub’s 7am closing time regardless.
He added: “I would much rather the police came to us and said ‘we’re having resource problems’ and I would gladly help, rather than drag us through a five-month review unnecessarily.”
Last month Metropolitan Police dropped its claims of hooliganism by Crystal Palace fans at the Portmanor pub in Crystal Palace after the landlord challenged the force to provide evidence.
Trade consultant Michael Kheng said he sees this kind of behaviour from the police “every day”.
“As a result of poor presentation of evidence from two police forces we have been forced to lodge complaints on behalf of our clients,” he said.