The Licensing Act 2003: Your responsibilities
Published:  06 June, 2007

Because the new Licensing Act does not link a licensee to specific premises, the choice of who is in charge of the off-licence rests with the person carrying on the business. As

has already been stated, an application for a new-style premises licence must include the name and address of the person who is to be the designated premises supervisor (DPS), together with a consent form from that person agreeing to take on the overall responsibility.

If that person leaves or steps down, a new designated premises supervisor must be formally appointed immediately. It will be illegal to make any sales of alcohol unless there is a DPS in existence.

The only people who can be named as designated premises supervisors are those who hold a personal licence. Therefore it makes sense that more than one person in the business holds a personal licence. That way, someone else can step in at short notice and the off-licence can continue to make sales of alcohol.

Only one DPS can be specified for each set of premises. This means that where at present a husband and wife, or two business partners, are both named on the existing justices’ licence, they will both obtain new-style personal licences but they will NOT be named as joint DPS. One of the partners must be selected. That choice will not affect the business arrangements – only the ultimate responsibility in law for the conduct of the premises.

The other partner, while not named as DPS, does share responsibility for compliance with the law if they are engaged in the business of the shop. At times when they are in charge, or serving customers, their responsibilities will be as great as the DPS to ensure that there are no offences against the Licensing Act.

However, it is possible for the same person to be appointed as the DPS of more than one set of premises, on the understanding that he or she takes on responsibility for compliance with the law at each outlet. It is not necessary or possible to hold more than one personal licence at a time.

As explained earlier, the new law requires there to be both the “holder” of the premises licence and a DPS. These are not necessarily the same person (for example, the “holder” may be a company) but in the case of independent operators it is likely that the owner or lessee will fulfil both roles.

Although it is not a legal requirement that personal licence holders who are running a shop have their licence with them, it must be produced on demand, either to a police officer or to an officer of the local authority who shows a form of identification. So the licence should be readily available at times when the shop is open for business.

Similarly, there are new strict rules for the display of the premises licence for which the holder is legally responsible. According to the new law, the holder of the premises licence must ensure that the actual licence, or a certified copy of it, is kept at the licensed premises. It must be under the “custody or control” of either the holder of the licence or a nominated person who works at the premises.

As was pointed out earlier, the new licensing authority will issue not only the premises licence but what is known as a “summary” of it, containing certain relevant details, including hours of opening and who the DPS is. This is now laid down in the regulations and covers two A4 pages, although it is hoped that a single sheet will suffice, because it must be POSTED UP prominently in the premises. This is a new requirement, as under the previous licensing law display of the justices’ licence is not required.

Although not included on the specimen form, there must also be a notice specifying the position held at the premises by the nominated person who has custody of the licence itself. This must also be POSTED UP prominently.

The main areas of responsibility for those selling alcohol under a premises licence are:

1. complying with the agreed hours for the sale of alcohol

2. not permitting disorder on or near the premises

3. not selling to people who are drunk

4. not selling to persons under 18 years of age

5. not allowing unauthorised sales to be made by persons under 18

6. not keeping smuggled goods on the premises.

There is also a responsibility placed on holders of premises licences to cease sales of alcohol if ordered to do so by the magistrates (in the case of expected disorder) or the police (in cases where disorder is occurring on or near the premises). Closure orders of this type may be issued against off-sale premises as well as pubs and bars. There is no exemption for shops and stores under the new Act.

Where there is a prosecution for one or more of the above offences, it is likely that the DPS will be charged in addition to the actual person or persons committing the offence. This is because the DPS takes personal responsibility under the new law to ensure that all legal requirements are complied with. In certain cases, the holder of the premises licence may also be charged.

What will then be taken into consideration is any evidence of “due diligence” -– that the DPS or licence holder took all possible steps to prevent the commission of the offence, but that it took place without his knowledge or connivance and that he was not lax in the management of the premises. The burden of proving due diligence falls upon the person charged.

If, for example, a member of staff sells alcohol in the shop after the agreed hours contained in the operating schedule (and reproduced on the premises licence summary posted up in the shop), then the DPS or licence holder must show that the sale took place without their consent and that they had given clear instructions about the times of sale and that the employee knew this and had agreed (preferably in writing).

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