Wake-up Call – Understanding police powers: when could they close your premises?

25 July 2014
Wake-up Call – Understanding police powers: when could they close your premises?

Police powers of closure come in many guises. Piers Warne looks at typical circumstances that could result in your premises being shut

The problem
With the potential introduction of yet another ‘power' for the police to close premises under the Crime and Policing Bill, it's a good time to review the powers police have in this area. Is there a point where too many options are available to the police and it becomes confusing?

The law
Police powers of closure come in many guises and under different legislation. Not all closure notices require immediate closure and others start in motion consequences that require further action. This therefore is a whistle-stop tour through police closure powers.

Expert advice
Under the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, the police have the power to issue closure notices and, if required, seek a closure order against licensed premises. Such notices are used mainly to deal with breaches of licence conditions, but technically they are to prevent unauthorised sales of alcohol.

However, a closure notice doesn't mean that a premises must close immediately. Only after seven days, if the complaints in the notice are not remedied, can a closure order be applied for. While there is likely to be a breach of the premises licence that leads to the service of a notice, often the police are content for premises to continue to trade so long as they deal with the identified issue within the seven days.

However, there is a form of closure order under section 161 of the Licensing Act that allows the police to deal with public disorder or public nuisance with immediate effect.

This type of order should only be used where premises operators refuse to co-operate with the police to prevent ongoing or likely disorder.

In these circumstances, a closure order issued by the police must then be put before a magistrate who can extend it. A review of the premises licence must also be held. Another closure power can be found in the Anti Social Behaviour Act 2003, which can be used to stop persistent disorder or nuisance.

The power, once invoked, has an immediate effect. Once issued, the police must seek an order from the Magistrates Court within 48 hours, which can extend a closure for up to three months.

Instead of facing prosecution for persistent sales of alcohol to under-18s (persistent being two sales within three months), a premises licence holder can accept a closure for between 48 and 336 hours. Such closure notices must begin at least 14 days after service of the notice. There are also powers in the Licensing Act

Facing a closure notice or order can be understandably traumatic and many premises licence holders might think it is easier to simply close immediately.

However by taking the time to understand the situation, operators can avoid closing unnecessarily, or perhaps even accept a short voluntary closure instead of formal action. Premises licence holders should seek legal advice to ensure that they know exactly what they are being asked to do and whether it is actually correct.

Beware The police have been given powers for many reasons. They have responsibilities to keep the peace. Therefore make sure, first and foremost, you are not operating in such a way as to encourage them to use their powers.

Piers Warne is a licensing solicitor at TLT Piers.Warne@TLTsolicitors.com

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