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Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011

Napthens - March 16th 2012

A number of significant changes to the Licensing Act 2003 will be introduced through the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, which received Royal Assent on 15 September 2011. Over the last few days, we have learnt that a number of these changes will be introduced on 6th April 2012 and it is imperative that licensees are aware of them because they have some potentially far-reaching implications.

The finer details of the changes will not be known until amended Guidance is issued, but the thrust of the changes which will take effect on 6th April 2012 can be viewed by following the link below.  In addition, it is proposed that Early Morning Restriction Orders and the Late Night Levy will be introduced in October 2012, although little detail is known at present and consultations are on-going.

The following changes are due to take effect on 6th April 2012:-

Local Authorities and Primary Care Trusts to become Responsible Authorities
Relevant Licensing Authorities and Primary Care Trusts will be given greater powers by being made responsible authorities, affording them many of the same rights as the likes of the Police and Environmental Health. This will mean a big change in the role of the Local Authority, which has largely been administrative to date. Following the change, they will be able to make representations in response to an application and will be able to instigate premises licence reviews.

The removal of the “Vicinity Test” for Interested Parties
Currently the Licensing Act states that “a person living in the vicinity of the premises” may make representations in relation to applications for the grant or variation of premises licences, or may instigate review proceedings. From 6th April, this will be widened to “persons who live, or are involved in a business, in the relevant licensing authority’s area”. The amendment comes with a warning that all representations should relate to the licensing objectives and must not be frivolous, but the change still has significant potential implications, namely that to be entitled to affect what happens at a premises, a resident will no longer be required to live or work close enough to be affected by what happens there.

Replacing “necessary” with “appropriate”
At the moment Licensing Committees are permitted to impose conditions upon premises licences which are deemed to be “necessary” and “proportionate” to promote the licensing objectives. On 6th April, the word “necessary” will be substituted with “appropriate”; a move which significantly reduces the threshold Licensing Authorities must meet to achieve promotion of the licensing objectives. For example, it clearly not necessary to utilise door supervisors at every town centre premises, but it would be much more difficult to argue that it is not appropriate.

Environmental Health Objections to Temporary Event Notices (TENs)
Under the current law, only the Police may object to a TEN and they may only do so on the basis that the proposed activities are likely to result in crime and disorder. From 6th April, Environmental Health Authorities will have the power to object to TENs on the basis that the proposed activities are likely to result in nuisance. So, by way of example, whilst it would be unlikely under current law that a TEN to cover a string quartet for a wedding in a marquee would attract an objection, that may well be the case after 6th April.

Late Notice TENs
Under the current law, TENs need to be submitted at least 10 clear working days before the event. From 6th April, Premises Users will be able to submit TENs as late as 5 clear working days before the event. This will allow a little more flexibility and, for example, address the issue for the licensee who had an event postponed due to bad weather and who could not hold the event the weekend after because of the 10 clear working day notice period.

Seven day TENs
A TEN will be able to run for 168 hours (7 days) rather than the current 96 hours (4 days) and a Premises User will be able to utilise TENs to cover a maximum of 21 days per calendar year as opposed to the current 15 days per calendar year.

Maximum Fine Doubled for Persistent Underage Sales
The maximum fine is doubling from £10,000 to £20,000 for the offence of persistently selling alcohol to children, ”persistently” meaning twice in any three month period. In addition, the voluntary closure period has been extended from 48 hours (2 days) to 336 hours (14 days). This means it is more imperative than ever to ensure that all due diligence documents are in order and up-to-date.

Suspension of Premises Licences for Overdue Annual Fees
Under current law, any overdue annual fees must be pursued by Local Authorities through the Courts like any other civil debt. From 6th April, subject to certain criteria, when the annual fee is overdue and has been for more than 21 days the premises licence will be suspended until payment is received.