Sarah Clover instructed by Gill Sherratt Licensing Matters consultancy has successfully defended a convenience store licensee from a Police application to revoke the premises licence for a Londis convenience store in Gravesend. This is one of a number of case studies regarding “COVID-19 Enforcement”.
Kent Police-based the review application on connections that they were making between sales of alcohol from the off-license to people they described as “street drinkers”, who were not only the people known locally to abuse alcohol, but people the Police were observing taking cans of alcohol into the local park during lockdown.
The Officer who compiled the review application did not present it to the Committee or give any responses, although she attended the remote hearing, and Officers who made statements against the licensee did not attend the remote hearing to answer questions about their allegations. The Police based their request for revocation upon a period of only seven weeks, during a time when the licensee had lost his key member of staff for COVID related reasons and had had to leave his own family to live over the shop to cope with the pandemic situation. Despite this, the Police claimed that the licensee was in “continuous breach” of his licence conditions and that they had “no faith in him to uphold the licensing objectives.”. The licensee had been at the store for ten years with no previous issues identified.
It became apparent during the hearing that the Police had no awareness of the guidance given by Home Office Minister, Kit Malthouse in a letter to the Chairs of Licensing Committees, and from the Local Government Association, Institute of Licensing and others to take a more pragmatic and sympathetic approach to businesses during the coronavirus crisis, and had not taken this into account in bringing the review.
The Licensing Panel Decision said this:
“The Panel further considered the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had on the ability of the licensee to fully comply with the conditions of his licence.
The Panel was disappointed to note that the Police presented no evidence to corroborate many of their claims and that [ the Officer who brought the review] did not address the Panel. In addition, [ the Officers who submitted statements with allegations ] did not attend the Panel to undergo questioning.”
The Panel only imposed the conditions that were offered by the licensee, and declined to reduce the hours of the premises, remove the licensee as DPS or revoke the licence, as the Police had requested.