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Summary Reviews: when are licensed premises ‘associated with’ serious crime?

The High Court has today dismissed a challenge against the decision of the Metropolitan Police to bring summary review proceedings leading to the suspension and revocation of a licence for a pub in Newham known as the 'William the Conqueror'.

The case is of great importance to police forces generally, whose discretion to bring summary review proceedings and obtain interim steps were the focus of the challenge. It is also of key importance to licensing authorities, which have (wrongly) been asked in recent cases to consider whether the certificate underpinning the decision to bring the summary review is sound.

The Police had evidence that the manager of the pub (and husband of the licensee) had on one evening become involved in an altercation with a customer who was causing trouble. The manager assaulted the customer by kicking him more than once, including in the head area, before allowing him to be taken outside by other customers, who further assaulted him leaving him in a coma. The premises had failed to alert the emergency services. On the basis of that evidence, the Superintendent had signed off a certificate that, in his opinion, the premises were associated with serious crime pursuant to s.53A(1)(b) of the Licensing Act 2003. In four subsequent decisions, the London Borough of Newham had decided to suspend the licence and ultimately revoke it finding that the incident clearly demonstrated a catastrophic failure in the management of the premises.

The licensee sought to quash the certificate triggering the summary review and the Council's subsequent decisions on the basis that, for premises to be associated with serious crime or serious disorder, there must be a pattern of such behaviour that would lead a reasonable person to make such an association, and that that could be found only in a series of such crimes or disorders, or a single incident which provided evidence of such a pattern. The premises had a good licensing history and it had been argued that the incident was a one off.

In a comprehensive judgment, John Howell QC (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) dismissed the challenge finding that for premises to be associated with serious crime or serious disorder there had only to be a connection or link between the premises and such conduct that could be relevant to the regulation of such premises under the Act. Parliament had not defined or limited the nature of any such association, but had decided to leave it to the opinion of the senior member of the relevant police force in signing the certificate. There was no requirement for the premises to be persistently associated with such conduct and there could be an association on the basis of a single incident.

The court went on to find that an application would be valid if accompanied by a certificate which apparently met the requirements of s.53A(1) and had not been quashed. The Council was not required to consider whether or not it was liable to be quashed.

If an application is made for judicial review of a certificate, no particularly stringent standard of review was necessary as the certificate itself had no immediate and direct effect and all the circumstances could be considered when the application was considered by the Council. The facts as they appeared to the Superintendent here plainly entitled him to give the certificate.

The case provides useful analysis of the scope and purpose behind the summary review provisions. Notably, the court found that it derived no real assistance on the issues from the non-statutory Home Office Guidance.

The full judgment can be found here.

Philip Kolvin QC and Asitha Ranatunga appeared on behalf of the Metropolitan Police.