The licensing industry will see a number of legal changes soon which many believe are long overdue. There have been very little changes to licensing laws over the years, especially considering the legal overhauls which brought about the Live Music Act 2012 and the Police Reform & Social Responsibility Act 2011, which directly affected premises who are licensed to serve alcohol. However, this may be about to change.
Introduced in February 2016 to Parliament, the new Policing & Crime Bill will bring with it a number of important changes to licensing laws that many believe are needed.
The Definition of Alcohol
One of the biggest changes will be around the definition of alcohol. There have been some new innovations in the way alcohol can be consumed, including powdered alcohol which can transform into a cocktail when it comes in contact with other liquids and vaporised alcohol, which allows consumers to inhale the alcohol rather than drink it.
These new innovations have prompted the question, “can they actually be classed as alcohol?” which has forced the government to clarify the rules on what is classed as alcohol so there is no ambiguity. According to the Licensing Act 2003, alcohol is defined as ‘spirits, wine, beer, cider or any other fermented, distilled or spirituous liquor’. This definition is quite broad, however, the government doesn’t want to have a situation where there are loopholes in the law that could question the validity of licensing laws, which is why this particular amendment has been introduced in the new Policing & Crime Bill.
Any changes to current licensing law would usually have to be approved by parliament, however since there have been no new amendments to the Licensing Act 2003 since it came into force, any changes can be made without the approval of parliament. The proposed changes will however go through a ‘negative resolution’ procedure, which means that they will be automatically approved unless there are any objections to the new changes by either the House of Commons or House of Lords.
Changes to the summary review process
There will also be a number of changes to the licence review process, which will help to clear up any confusion over what will happen to a licensed premises following an appeal to remove their licence to serve alcohol.
When a licensed premises has their licence reviewed, the licensing authority will usually impose temporary conditions to allow the licence holder to still serve alcohol as they await the outcome of an appeal. These temporary conditions are granted on a case by case basis, so the proposed changes to licensing laws will help to give clarification over what these temporary conditions are and whether they will remain in place following the outcome of the appeal.
More Power to Suspend or Revoke a Personal Licence
The changes to licensing laws will give the licensing authorities more power to suspend or revoke a personal licence, as currently this can only be done by the courts. Current legislation means that some personal licence holders are reluctant to declare them to the courts for fear of it affecting their jobs, so there may be a large number of personal licence holders who have been convicted of offences relating to serving alcohol, yet still continuing to do so as their licence has never been declared. The government hopes that by giving more power to the licensing authorities, it will reduce the number of personal licence holders who fail to declare their personal licence.
The bill is now moving on to its second reading and as there have been no objections so far, it is likely that the new bill will be passed and these new licensing laws will come into force sometime in the near future.
Author : Stuart Jessop
DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic.