Andy Woods examines the issues raised when a premises licence holder sought to withdraw an appeal after it had been remitted back to the licensing authority.
I have recently represented a local authority in a case which has now been running for well over a year and is only now close to being finished. The case should never have continued for so long. It highlights some of the difficulties local authorities can experience, when dealing with matters under the Licensing Act 2003.
An application for a review of a premises licence was submitted in the usual way by the Police. The matter was listed for hearing within the required timescales, but it had to be adjourned as the premises licence holder had a hospital appointment on the day. At the subsequent hearing, the premises licence holder proposed conditions at the last minute, which the Police needed time to consider, leading to a further adjournment, before the matter was eventually dealt with by the Licensing Committee, who accepted the ‘agreed conditions’, as the Police were content with what was proposed.
A decision notice was sent out, and on the last day possible the premises licence holder appealed the decision – despite the fact that it reflected what they had proposed by way of ‘agreed conditions’.
The original review had been submitted in July 2014, with the appeal eventually listed for a directions hearing in December. At the directions hearing – aware that there had not been a full hearing of the matter in the first place – the Magistrates remitted the appeal back to the local authority to consider in full. A full hearing took place in January this year but, before the full hearing, the premises licence holder submitted an application for a new licence in respect of the same premises!
The premises licence holder appealed the decision of the Licensing Committee again, and the appeal was eventually heard in July this year – exactly 12 months after the application was submitted – but the appeal was not concluded and stands adjourned to September. The Licensing Committee considered the application for the new licence and refused the application and that decision was also appealed, although that appeal was subsequently withdrawn.
The interesting legal point to emerge amongst this legal morass came when, after the Magistrates remitted the appeal back to the Licensing Authority in December, the premises licence holder sought to withdraw the appeal altogether – perhaps because they were concerned that the Licensing Committee might impose a harsher decision than the one originally agreed.
Appeals under the 2003 Act are dealt with under section 181 and Schedule 5 of LA2003. S181 states as follows:
"1. Schedule 5 (which allows for appeals) has effect.
2. On an appeal in accordance with that Schedule against a decision of a licensing authority , a magistrates court may-
(a) Dismiss the appeal;
(b) Substitute for the decision appealed against any other decision which could have been made by the licensing authority;
(c) Remit the case to the licensing authority to dispose of it in accordance with the direction of the court;
(d) And may make such order as to costs as it thinks fit."
In these particular circumstances the premises licence holder could of course continue to operate under the existing licence (by virtue of submitting an appeal) until the appeal was disposed of and it is those words which we had to look at when the premises licence holder approached the licensing authority seeking to withdraw the appeal after it had been remitted back to the licensing authority in December.
It seemed clear to us that the Magistrates’ court had completed its duty under s. 181(2) and, in accordance with s. 181(2)(c), had remitted the matter back to the liicensing authority. The appeal had been determined and was therefore over, and in those circumstances the premises licence holder/appellant was not able to withdraw an appeal which, in effect, no longer existed. This placed the licensing authority in a position whereby it had to hold a further hearing and deliberate fully in respect of a matter that had been agreed in the first place, subsequently appealed and remitted back to the licensing authority!
There have been other issues arising out of this case which I will write about in later articles but it is clear that all parties to an appeal need to be fully aware of all of the complex provisions in the Licensing Act relating to appeals, the procedural intricacies, and all possible outcomes.