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Posted by: John Brace | 22nd November 2011

Licensing Act 2003 Sub-Committee 22/11/2011 (Four Seasons, 265-267 Seabank Road, Wallasey)

The Licensing Committee due to take place today to review the Four Seasons premises licence in New Brighton ward did not take place as planned.

The following councillors did however turn up:-

Cllr Denise Roberts
Cllr John Salter
Cllr Mike Hornby

Officers:
David Abraham (Legal adviser)
Margaret Calvert (Licensing Team Leader)
Committee Clerk: Unknown

Others:
A Merseyside Police officer
Solicitor for those holding the premises licence at the Four Seasons which was Andrew Church-Taylor of Farleys Solicitors LLP
People holding the premises licence for the Four Seasons
A number of other people (at least two) plus myself and another member of the public.

However the meeting was not held, for possibly multiple reasons. There was a combination of the reasons outlined here about a mistake in the agenda in my letter here which related to the desire of Merseyside Police and Wirral Council to hold the committee in private without the public present and the complexity of the case meaning that starting at 2pm, you can’t do such a complex case justice. Things have to be done at such meetings according to the
Licensing Act 2003 (Hearings) Regulations 2005 No.44 which were amended by the Licensing Act 2003 (Hearings) (Amendment) Regulations 2005 No.78.

There was also talk in the lobby of a councillor being late because he arrives by public transport, but I’m not sure which councillor Margaret Calvert was referring to. As councillors are drawn from a panel of fifteen councillors (three of which were there) it doesn’t narrow it down much, although it may have been the Chair of the previous meeting.

The decision to hold it in private had been made at a previous meeting whose minutes for this meeting have (not at the time of writing on the 22nd November) been published and the committee clerk who wrote the draft minutes wasn’t present. The main error was writing “Licensing Act 2003” instead of “The Licensing Act 2003 (Hearings) Regulations 2005”, which in itself was a minor error, but as it had been made at a previous meeting on the 21st October complicates things further.

As the public representations made during Licensing Act 2003 subcommittee meetings can affect the decision made, excluding the public based on a law that was the wrong one could open the decision up to appeal in the Magistrate’s Court if the public were excluded unlawfully.

If it was Wirral Council’s error and they lost they’d have to pay the legal costs of the other party which could end up being considerable. There is some case-law on the subject of licensing appeals, the police, the Magistrates Court (which my father used to work for) and the High Courts of Justice but it’s too late to go into here and this blog post is too long already. It’s a very complex area of law.

My Dad commented that he felt things were dealt better when the Magistrate’s Court used to deal with licensing issues before it got switched to the local authority (Wirral Council). His view was that a court knows the law better than a local authority does as they have experienced staff that deal with providing legal advice to magistrates (as he used to). Wirral Council does have legally qualified staff to deal with legal matters, such as David Abraham and at least seventeen others (plus external legal advisors on an ad hoc basis).

The problem is the agendas aren’t put together by lawyers, they’re put together by committee clerks who don’t need to have a legal qualification and have to rely on the advice given to them by the legal department about what is legal.


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