Insight Local Government Lawyer Insight February 2018 33 Late in 2016, a District Judge sitting in the Thames Magistrates' Court dismissed of his own motion an appeal brought pursuant to the Licensing Act 2003 at 'half-time', at the conclusion of the appellant's case. This is thought to be the first occasion when such a course has been taken in a licensing appeal. The appellant was deeply aggrieved about the decision and sought to challenge it in the High Court, claiming both want of jurisdiction and general unfairness of approach. The High Court refused permission in robust terms, confirming both the existence of the power and the propriety of its exercise. This article sets out the history of the particular case and the relevant law as confirmed by the High Court's decision. It is likely that all parties to licensing appeals will wish to consider both the manner in which the court assessed and treated the appellant's character. It is virtually certain that all such parties will wish to consider the possibility - or risk - that appeals may be dealt with in this way, The case On 21 August 2015, a licensee in the London Borough of Hackney applied pursuant to section 34 Licensing Act 2003 to vary the premises licence which he held for the Efes Snooker Club in Stoke Newington, within one of Hackney's Special Policy Areas. The applicant sought a considerable extension of his opening hours - though not the hours for licensable activity - to 04:00hrs daily. A series of conditions were proposed in support of this application, including a last new entry time of 03:00hrs, 7 days a week. The existing last entry times were 00:30hrs, Thursday to Saturday, and 23:30hrs, Sunday to Wednesday. It might be thought that, on any view, the application represented a considerable incursion into particularly noise sensitive hours. It might also be thought that such an extension would foreseeably present at least a real risk of interference with the public nuisance licensing objective - particularly with a permitted capacity in the premises of 250 to the local area during sensitive night time hours. The application attracted three representations by and/or on behalf of local residents, and a fourth from the licensing authority. The licensing authority was particularly concerned about the consumption of alcohol in the 3-3.5 proposed additional hours of opening, and the risk of stockpiling. The licensee, whilst claiming an increase in the sale of alcohol was no part of his business model - and that he would ensure that no stockpiling took place - nevertheless resisted a condition prohibiting consumption of alcohol on the premises at the conclusion of licensable activities. On 20 October 2015, a sub-committee of the London Borough of Hackney (as licensing authority) heard and determined the application. The licensee was represented before Hackney and throughout proceedings by the same specialist licensing counsel. The extension of opening hours was refused. The licensee appealed the refusal pursuant to section 181 of the Act, and the appeal was listed before a District Judge on 30 September 2016 and 3 October 2016 in the Thames Magistrates' Court. In accordance with the Hope and Glory cases and the Magistrates' Courts Rules 1981, the District Judge first heard the licensee's case. The licensee gave evidence in person. The only additional witness called was his licensing consultant, instructed - according to her - 'very recently', who had undertaken no substantive work herself on the appellant's behalf. She exhibited in turn an unsigned statement from a second Sarah Lefevre looks at the first case in which the higher courts have supported the Magistrates Court’s ability to dismiss cases where there is ‘no case to answer’. Half time decisions in licensing appeals