I am writing this slightly red-eyed following England’s match against Croatia. So what better fix to get Vindaloo and Three Lions out of my head than penning an article about the correspondence we have seen from some police forces asking or even requiring certain measures to be taken for England World Cup games to minimise the effects of overexuberant celebrations?
The police have a responsibility to protect the public, and we all know there is a minority of idiots who can ruin it for the rest of us. Licensees in turn must play their part, pubs and bars being a natural focal point for people to watch the games. And, of course, there is the question of alcohol.
Some police forces have written to licensees with a list of requirements or suggestions to consider to enjoy a safe event. Some are more prescriptive than others. They may reference more staff at the bar, having or increasing door staff, the use of polycarbonates or ensuring that no irresponsible drinks promotions take place. The legal effect of these letters and emails is minimal. The police cannot require by virtue of correspondence a licence holder to do anything more than they are required to do under the conditions of their licence and their general duty to promote the licensing objectives, but this can sometimes come across as rather more demanding, with requirements for action plans and an implied expectation that the suggested measures will be carried out ‘or else’.
None of us like being told what to do but the police have a big stick – if something goes wrong they could review your premises licence or apply for a closure notice. But, if you have planned your event carefully, taken appropriate advice from the police and others where necessary and not just gone for the ‘fast buck’ then, in my opinion, you will have acted responsibly under licensing law. If you are still unlucky enough to have something ‘kick off’ (forgive the pun) and you manage that incident responsibly, even if there is enforcement action, you will be on fairly solid ground.
The best police letter I saw was one asking licensees for their anticipated numbers, any private bookings, door staff numbers, etc, so that they could feed this intelligence into their wider policing requirement for the next England match, together with some general advice. The letter concluded by saying that the police were not going to tell licensees what to do, as licence holders knew their premises best.
That seems to me to strike the right balance.