Recently, I’ve attended meetings with local police authorities, licensing act authorities and council environmental health officers on behalf of clients regarding their premises licence. Increasingly, police and councils are seeking to meet with operators to resolve offences rather than head straight to otherwise avoidable and costly enforcement or review proceedings.
Informal Meeting … or Interview?
A meeting may take place at your own premises, a police station or local authority office. Not all operators will attend these meetings with their legal representative and therefore it is important that you ascertain the following points in advance:
- Are you or your premises being accused of Licensing Act offences (e.g. underage sales, trading outside of licensed hours) or other criminal offences (e.g. allegations of serious crime and disorder)?
- Is the meeting an informal discussion between the parties or an official interview under caution?
Prior to attending you may wish to prepare documentary evidence to support and/or defend your position. Keep a copy for yourself and prepare one to pass to those you are meeting with. Diligent record keeping and a conscientious approach can go a long way to give the authorities a favourable impression of you as a good operator.
Seek Legal Representation!
If the offence is under the Licensing Act then there is likely to be an informal meeting and some operators may feel that legal representation is unnecessary. Beware, some authorities have been known to pressure operators into accepting binding agreements (e.g. in a trading outside of licensed hours case – a severe reduction to hours in the operator’s premises licence) in these meetings (for the authorities – this avoids the costly process of going through a full premises licence review).
If you arrive at a meeting which turns out to be an interview under caution (always the case for criminal offences), contact your solicitor immediately as you may require advice and assistance at the interview.
If you operate a licensed premises in the UK and would like advice about matters such as those discussed or regarding your alcohol/entertainment licence, contact Ed Smith in the Levi Solicitors Licensing Department on 0113 297 1875.