Court to rule on lawfulness of remote licensing hearings

12 Apr 2023


Matt Lewin

Judgment has been reserved in a case challenging the lawfulness of a licensing hearing held using Microsoft Teams.

Silks, a south London nightclub, has appealed against a decision by the London Borough of Lewisham revoking its premises licence, following a number of incidents of violent disorder at the premises last year.

The decision to revoke the licence was made following a series of hearings that took place over Microsoft Teams. Lewisham, like many other licensing authorities across the country, has continued to hold licensing hearings remotely notwithstanding the lifting of social distancing rules in 2021 and the decision of the High Court in R (Hertfordshire County Council) v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government [2021] EWHC 1093 (Admin).

As part of its appeal against the revocation, Silks has sought to challenge Lewisham’s use of a remote hearing. Legal argument on that preliminary issue was heard by District Judge Abdel Sayed at Bromley Magistrates’ Court on 30 March 2023. Judgment is expected around mid-April.

Although, as a decision of the magistrates’ court it will not technically be binding on any other licensing authority, this case is thought to be the first in which the courts have been asked to specifically rule on whether the Licensing Act 2003 and the Licensing Act (Hearings) Regulations 2005 permit the use of remote hearings on platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom. The outcome is therefore expected to be of great interest to licensing authorities and practitioners across the country.

Matt Lewin, a member of Cornerstone Barristers’ Licensing team, is instructed by the London Borough of Lewisham. Jeremy Phillips KC and Leo Charalambides, both of FTB, are instructed by Silks.