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Licensing news England and Wales - January 2018

This month in summary

Happy 2018 from TLT's  licensing team

Firstly, from all of the licensing team, let us wish you a belated Happy New Year and best wishes for a prosperous 2018.

Key dates and Temporary Event Notice deadlines

As with every year, there are certain important dates that come around far too quickly and catch us unawares. To help with timings, we have put together a calendar of bank holidays, sporting events and other key dates, along with the deadlines for submitting temporary event notices. Whilst we cannot remind you of that all-important anniversary date, or mother's birthday, at least you will now know the last date for submitting a TEN for an extension on St Patrick's Day!

The full calendar can be found here

Moves to introduce 'Agent of Change' principle gather pace

The principle of 'agent of change' (where a developer or operator who is responsible for putting in soundproofing when changing the use of an existing premises to one that either creates noise, or is sensitive to existing noise) has once again come to prominence.

John Spellar MP has introduced a Private Member's Bill to Parliament which has received cross party support. It follows London Mayor Sadiq Khan's proposed adoption of the principle in his draft London Plan.

Essentially, the principle works on the basis that a developer of flats next to, for instance, a live music venue, would need to make provision for ensuring the residents are not affected by noise from the music, via proper design and soundproofing. Likewise, an operator of a new live music venue in a residential area would need to ensure that they installed adequate soundproofing to prevent noise outbreak adversely affecting residents already living nearby.

Currently the law, in particular in licensing terms, favours developers of residential dwellings and their purchasers. Under the Licensing Act, they can review a premises licence at no cost to themselves and often with the result of forcing the venue to change its practices for the benefit of the residents. Introduction of the principle into general law would give added protection to premises to fight against such outcomes.

Cllr Gerald Vernon Jackson, Chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: “Our live music venues are part of the cultural lifeblood of communities, but sadly the increase in demand for housing in town centres is bringing some residents into conflict with them.

“It cannot be right that someone can knowingly move next door to such a venue and then decide afterwards that the music is a nuisance, in the same way that it is not right for a venue to install a speaker system without consideration for nearby residents. Instead this proposal provides a common-sense solution which strikes a balance between the obligations of developers and protecting the vital live music scene in our towns and cities across the country."

Whilst the Government has indicated that it would support the bill in principle, it will depend on whether there is Parliamentary time for such a Bill to proceed.

Debate rages as to whether, or when, premises 'airside' will require a premises licence to operate

Currently, all premises 'airside' at airports (those on the other side of departure security checks), along with other public transport hubs, such as ports (and along with trains) are exempt from requiring a premises licence in order to sell alcohol. The issue came to prominence during the House of Lords post-legislative scrutiny into 10 years of the Licensing Act and featured heavily in their report released last year. Their conclusion was that there was no good reason to retain the exemption, suggesting that the Government remove it as a matter of urgency to prevent the rise in alcohol related air incidents.

The Government response to the Lord's report was to announce a number of consultations relating to a new UK aviation strategy, including a consultation specifically focussing on consumer journey and experience and how to limit the impact of disruptive passengers on the travelling public. They also identified practical issues, such as licensing officers having access to premises airside that would need to be overcome. This, however, was met with frustration on the part of the Lords when they debated the Government response on the 20 December last year.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering who chaired the House of Lords Licensing Committee commented:

"At [some] stage the Government will have to make up their mind. We have shown a straightforward way to [force airside premises to require a premises licence to sell alcohol] by a simple order lifting the exemption. The Government should do so as a matter of urgency and certainly before flights in the summer of 2018. The Government accept that what they call disruptive events are on the rise, so why would they not want to act now? We further urge the Government to act expeditiously to ensure that Section 141 of the Licensing Act, which makes it an offence to sell or attempt to sell alcohol to a person who is drunk, is properly enforced, thus helping to prevent preloading and reduce the excessive drunkenness and anti-social behaviour often linked with it."

Lord Blair of Boughton added:

"The Home Office arguments against extending the Licensing Act to airports are simply fatuous. The argument is, apparently, that it would be difficult to arrange for licensing officers to go in airside…That means that the offence of selling drink to someone who is already drunk does not exist in an airport… We need licensing officers to be able to enter airside. That is not difficult."

Given both the Government and Lord's responses, it is difficult to see that at some stage the law will not be changed in this matter. However, it would appear that this will be as part of a wider strategy piece that is likely to be consulted on at some point this year. Thereafter, even if the law were to change, there would need to be a decent transitional period to allow for licences to be obtained and for security systems to be implemented in relation to officer inspections. The Government's seeming failure to grasp the nettle as the Lords would have liked, would suggest that premises airside will need to self-regulate to prevent passengers boarding flights after having more than a few drinks to celebrate their trip away for some time yet.   

Credit and Debit card charges banned

As of 13 January 2018 operators are no longer permitted to add a handling charge on to customer bills for card transactions. The UK wide ban will apply to all cards as well as Paypal transactions.

Gambling News

Five online casinos face review hearings following concerns over money laundering procedures

The Gambling Commission (GC) has, following its widely publicised change in enforcement practice, opted to review five online casinos' operating licences. This follows investigations into practices and procedures for dealing with money laundering and identifying potential problem gambling at online casinos. The GC has publicised that as a result of its investigations it has written to seventeen companies in the sector expressing concerns.

The GC has stated that through its investigations, it has identified failings in relation to money laundering procedures, alongside companies' social responsibility provision, designed to protect under-age and problem gamblers. Both prevention of money laundering and protection of vulnerable persons are key tenets of the Gambling Act, with the GC noting that signs of problem gambling were not necessarily triggering sufficient customer interaction by gambling companies.  

In relation to money laundering, however, the concerns that have led to the reviews of the operating licences included:

  • money laundering reporting officers with no formal qualifications
  • lack of understanding of how criminals launder proceeds of crime
  • under and insufficient reporting of suspicious activity to law enforcement 

Where serious failings are found as part of a review, the GC has the power to revoke operating licences. Part of the new approach to enforcement as announced by the GC was to take much tougher attitude to failings than had previously been the case. 

What is clear from the reviews is that each sector is likely to face scrutiny from the GC and action will follow if they consider policies and practices in place to be insufficient. The publicising of any such findings are designed to act as an additional deterrent.

One area identified by the GC facing additional scrutiny is the online gambling market in general given that it is now accounts for approximately a third of all gambling activity in the UK.

Out and about

In December, we enjoyed events with the ALMR, BII, Association of Independent Festival Organisers and London Property Forum. In addition, we had hearings in Croydon and Leeds, amongst other places and various meetings with clients, residents and officers, all with a view to applications and hearings upcoming in the new year. We look forward to working with you all during the course of 2018. 

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at January 2018. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

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