Legal advice: Dealing with drugs

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Drug addiction License

Drugs: Do you know the law?
Drugs: Do you know the law?
Drugs can be an issue in a variety of licensed premises and with the plethora of current licensing requirements, record keeping and business responsibilities it is one that may easily be overlooked.

Particularly if you are running a “nice quiet pub” which is located off the high street, you may think that drug-taking and the issues associated with it are someone else’s problem. Unfortunately, it is not just high street premises that are at risk and some drug-taking, particularly the use of cocaine, has become more widespread in different premises; for example, your pub may be the starting point before people set off on their journey to the livelier hotspots on the high street.

Clearly, if you suspect that drug-taking, and particularly drug-dealing, are occurring in your premises, you must act promptly to protect yourself and your premises licence.

Here are some tips for prevention:

  • Monitor CCTV if you have it; otherwise remain vigilant and encourage your staff to follow your example.
  • Train your staff to look for the signs of drug-taking and dealing.
  • Speak to the police and get their guidance. Home Office guidance states that the police and relevant authorities should work with the premises and not against licensees if there is an issue.
  • Keep your premises tidy, regularly collect empties and carry out checks in the toilets.

More specifically, here are some tips about what to look for:

  • Obvious signs of drug use include folded paper or packets, drinking straws in toilet areas, torn-up beer mats or other pieces of cardboard, and payment for drinks with notes that have been tightly rolled or have traces of white powder on them.
  • The physical signs of a customer who may have been using drugs include dilated pupils, excessive sniffing, exuberant and loud behaviour or failing to engage and being withdrawn. You can also look for excessive consumption of soft drinks.
  • The signs of drug-dealing can be a person having a number of short exchanges with apparent strangers, frequent trips to the toilet or outside the premises, and if CCTV is installed, customers looking to have discussions in any blind-spot away from the cameras.

If you have any concerns that drug-taking or dealing is occurring at your venue, you should do the following:

  • Call the police immediately and invite a licensing officer initially to attend your premises and make a note of the conversation; listen to the police advice and carry it out as far as reasonably possible.
  • If you do find drugs, store them securely. Do not leave them lying around or attempt to take them down to the police station yourself because it has been known for a licensee to be arrested for being in possession of unlawful drugs (which technically he is).
  • Make a recording in a book of the circumstances of the drug find and of any contact you have with the police or any other authority. As so often is the case with licensing issues, good vigilance, prompt action and staff training are all key.

Related topics Licensing law

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