- Catch up on the Lock In podcast episode here
As we officially hit December, the festive season is in full swing. As families flock to their favourite pubs to enjoy the festive celebrations it is worth reminding ourselves of the licensing law around children in licensed premises.
Under the Licensing Act 2003 all licensed premises have an overriding duty to promote the four licensing objectives which include the Protection of Children from Harm.
The only general restriction under licensing law relates to unaccompanied children under 16, where on alcohol led licensed premises (defined as “exclusively or primarily used for the sale and consumption of alcohol”) it’s an offence to permit children under 16 at any time unless accompanied by an adult over 18. And for all licensed premises (whether or not they are exclusively or primarily used for the sale and consumption of alcohol) it’s an offence to allow unaccompanied children under 16 after midnight up to 5am if the premises is open for sale and consumption of alcohol at that time.
On top of these general restrictions there may also be conditions attached to a pub’s premises licence that impose further restrictions on children. Commonly you can find conditions around children under 18 not being permitted after a certain time or children restricted in certain parts of the pub such as the bar area.
These conditions form part of the licence authorisation and breaching them is a criminal offence. And as with all offences under licensing law, committing this offence can lead to prosecution, criminal conviction and significant penalties. It can also lead to an application for review of your premises licence being issued by authorities for undermining the promotion of the licensing objectives where at a hearing the licensing committee could impose further restrictions on the licence, remove the DPS or worst revoke the licence! And if you’re a personal licence holder and convicted of these offences your licence can be suspended up to 6 months or taken away.
Under the law there are also various offences around children and alcohol in licenced premises. I won’t list them all but for example we all know it’s an offence to sell alcohol to someone under 18. Knowingly allowing the sale of alcohol to someone under 18, along with knowingly allowing someone to deliver alcohol sold on the premises to someone under 18 is also an offence.
It’s also an offence to knowingly allowing someone under 18 to consume alcohol in licensed premises or for an adult to buy alcohol on behalf of someone under 18 (known as a proxy sale). However, there is an exception to these offences for 16- and 17-year-olds, who are permitted to consume beer wine or cider with a table meal if they’re accompanied by someone over 18 and the drink is purchased by someone over 18.
If there are two or more underage sales within three months at a premises the Premises Licence Holder can be prosecuted for persistently selling alcohol to children and face an unlimited fine and alcohol sales suspended for up to 3 months. Alternately, Police may ask for voluntarily closure for up to 14 days to avoid prosecution. Police and trading standards do carry out test purchases to check licensees are complying with the law so be on guard and have robust age verification training in place.
Finally, although you can employ children under-18s to work in licensed premises (subject to any local by-laws and certain restrictions under working regulations),if someone under 18 is going to be selling alcohol and dispensing behind the bar each and every sale needs to be specifically approved by responsible person (the premise licence holder, DPS or someone over 18 authorised to make approvals on their behalf). This can be operationally onerous, but it’s an offence if you don’t do it. The only exception is where the sale of alcohol by someone under 18 is made in an area set aside for meals, like a restaurant area, where alcohol is only sold to someone having a meal.
This is essentially a brief (non-exhaustive) summary of licensing law around children. Next time I’ll look at some top tips to mitigate risks around children in pub, age verification and spotting false ID.