A testing time
Q: I own the village pub, which is heavily food-led with a substantial restaurant offering approximately 150 covers. I also have two Category C gaming machines located in the bar area that are popular with some of my regular customers. The machines generate a significant take each week.
I was recently visited by my local licensing officer to inform me that a test purchase operation had been carried out over the weekend and that two 16-year-olds had gained access to one of my machines and played on it for a period of time without being challenged. What shall I do?
A. It is a criminal offence under the Gambling Act to permit or allow someone under the age of 18 to play on such a machine. The potential sanctions are prosecution through the magistrates’ court with the risk of fine or imprisonment together with the possibility of revocation of the relevant gaming permit by the Gambling Commission.
I’ve also known local authorities to threaten to review the premises licence as a result of such a failed test purchase.
You need to investigate exactly what happened. Have a look at the premises’ CCTV system and see exactly how the operation was conducted. You should also conduct a review of any relevant training records of staff members in relation to properly supervising these machines and making sure that children don’t play upon them.
Once you have determined exactly what happened, enter into open dialogue with the licensing officer and perhaps suggest a meeting to discuss how things could be done better going forward.
Closure notice served
Q: I run a busy late-night bar in the city centre. I believe that my premises is well run and we do not, generally, have any incidents worthy of note.
However, a couple of weeks ago there was an incident at the front door of the pub. The police had to be called and, as part of their investigation, they requested that we download the CCTV footage from the camera that covers the front door so that they could see exactly what had happened.
Unfortunately, we were unable to download the relevant CCTV footage despite the fact that the system had been recently serviced by our CCTV company.
The police have now served us with a ‘s19 closure notice’ and I don’t know what to do. Can you help?
A. Unfortunately, the use of these closure notices is becoming more and more prevalent although – to be fair to the police – it is often done as a last resort once a request has already been made by them asking for some aspect of an operation be sorted out. In this case, that would be the problem with the CCTV system being resolved.
The fact that these are called ‘closure notices’ is slightly misleading in the sense that they do not actually require you to close the premises.
That only happens if the police go to court and obtain a closure order, which has to be after a seven-day period, following the service of the closure notice.
However, assuming that you do have a condition on your premises licence that requires you to have a CCTV system that is operational and perhaps requiring the production of CCTV footage on request, you are technically committing an offence while that condition is not being complied with.
You are, therefore, leaving yourself open to the possibility of prosecution during any period when the issue remains unresolved.
These days that can lead to an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment together with potential review of your premises licence.
The bottom line is that you need to resolve the CCTV issue as quickly as possible and communicate with the police to let them know what steps you are taking and how quickly it will be done. It would also be prudent to have them revisit once the problem is solved. They should then confirm that the closure notice has been withdrawn.
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