New Licensing laws give Police the power to shut pubs and clubs for 24 hours without a court order if they think public safety is at risk
A New Licensing law aimed at reducing anti-social behaviour in pubs and clubs is soon to come into effect.
This Act amends, and in some places replaces, the existing provisions of the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (the Licensing Order) and the Registration of Clubs (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (the Clubs Order).
The Licensing and Registration of Clubs (Amendment) Act (NI) 2011 was passed by the Stormont Assembly last year. It gives police the power to close licensed premises for 24 hours, without a court order if they think public safety is at risk. A Senior Police Officer may close a licensed premises, or a private members club, when there is disorder on or near the premises and when closure of the premises would be in the interests of public safety. With the approval of a Magistrate, the closure can be extended to 28 days.
The act introduces a new penalty points system and, in cases where the licence holder is convicted of certain offences, a court may order that the corresponding penalty points be endorsed on the liquor licence. In the event the licence holder accumulates more than 10 penalty points within a 3 year period a licence may be suspended for between 1 week and 3 months.
Another new provision is the statutory proof of age scheme which specifies what documentation pubs and clubs may accept as proof of age. It also deals with the prohibition of people aged under 18 from certain premises, and the purchase of alcohol by – or for - them.
‘Irresponsible drinks promotions’ have been targeted by this legislation and the Department of Social Development has been given powers to make regulations to prohibit or restrict the reduction of prices during ‘Happy Hour’ promotions and to restrict ‘2 for 1’ promotions.
Landlords should take note that whilst the closure of premises, even for 24 hours, can have a huge financial impact, the police cannot be pursued for financial reimbursement if they have misjudged a situation– unless the police have acted in bad faith, or if there have been certain breaches of the Human Rights Act.
David Wilson is a Partner in the Commercial department of Worthingtons Solicitors and provides specialist advice in relation to licensing law. Should you have any queries in relation to this article please submit your enquiry below.