Norfolk Constabulary's Work With Licensed Premises (Agenda item 6)
Briefing by Tony Grover, Norfolk Constabulary Licensing Team.
Tony Grover from the Norfolk Constabulary Team was in attendance following the postponement of his briefing at the Licensing Committee meeting on 24 October 2012.
Mr Grover was the designated Licensing Officer for the Norfolk Police dealing with licensing issues at licensed premises. He had not come across any problems in relation to gambling.
The Team was based in Norwich and were part of the Community Safety Team incorporating an Inspector a Sergeant, 3 constables and administrative support. The job entailed checking through licensing applications and addressing issues as and when they arose.
Mr Grover gave a detailed explanation on how the Team dealt with problems at licensed premises and circulated a Visits or Interventions Actions flow chart.
The Chairman stated that he would prefer the Breckland Licensing Team, the Police, Health and the Trading Standards to work more closely together. He mentioned the visit to a licensed premise that he had attended accompanied by the Constabulary Team and the Licensing & Business Support Manager which he had found very useful as he was able to ascertain first hand how the system worked and how any problems were dealt with. He encouraged other Members to do the same.
Councillor Spencer asked how the Team segregated its way of doing things from Breckland’s Enforcement Team. Members were informed of the process. When a licensing application came in the Team would make sure that it had been completed correctly, as did the Licensing Authority; then he, on behalf of the Police, Planning, Fire Service and Trading Standards would all be sent a copy so that all had an opportunity to make representations. The Police’s aim was crime and disorder and public safety and discussions would take place with the applicant on any of these issues in relation to risk. If there was a risk, conditions would then be placed on the licence which would be enforceable. However, he reminded Members that there were many old licences under the previous Licensing regime that had been converted enbloc making many conditions unenforceable.
The paper that had been circulated highlighted how the Police approached a particular problem and Mr Grover further highlighted the difference between the Police approach and the Licensing Authority approach. Any licensing offences detected were normally put back to the Licensing Authority. The Licensing & Business Support Officer stated that this depended on the action needed but it ensured that there was never an issue that no-one wanted to take ownership of. This approach had been adopted across Norfolk; however, there were very very few prosecutions in regard to licensing premises and generally the Licensing Authority dealt with problems during a review as pursuing offences through the courts was a time consuming process.
Councillor Spencer asked who a problem should be reported to - the Police or the Licensing Authority. Members were informed that if it was an assault, anti-social behaviour or an attack then it would be the Police, a fire risk would be the Licensing Authority first then the Fire Brigade. Mr Grover said that all information was shared between the responsible authorities. Multi operations were also engaged as there were often conflicts between planning requirements and licensing requirements. There were quite a few problems that the Police came across in relation to planning and it was felt that there was an opportunity for planning to take a little more interest.
Referring to the application form, Councillor Armes asked if it was through a lack of understanding when incorrectly completed and was it too detailed for the European community who might not be aware of the full implications of the form. The Licensing & Business Support Officer stated that advice was available if applicants so wished. In relation to the application form, this was a national form and was a legal requirement. However, the form was currently being reviewed by the Home Office.
Mr Grover said that some people found the forms to be quite intimidating as there were quite a few pages to complete even though 3 sections had been removed.
Councillor Martin stated that there were two premises in Attleborough where the Police had to be often called. Mr Grover reminded Members that these problems could only be dealt with if they were reported to the Police – obviously they had not. Attleborough had not caused the Police any problems of late.
Referring to reviews, Mr Grover highlighted the fact that the last review to take place in Breckland was in relation to a public house in Swaffham. The premises had since re-opened and there had not been any problems as yet. The Licensing & Business Support Manager reminded Members that any review would have to be dealt with by the Licensing Sub-Committee backed up by evidence before a decision could be made. Councillor Lamb felt that it had been a much better system when the Magistrates and the Police had dealt with Licensing issues. He thought that the new regime was too complicated and much too costly and further felt that many problems had stemmed from alcohol being too easily available and questioned why there were so many places allowed to sell it in such a small area. Mr Grover explained that there was no Cumulative Impact Policy in place in Norfolk. The Licensing & Business Support Manager advised that Council’s did not have the powers to restrict the sale of alcohol but any premises would have to come before a Sub-Committee to sell if objections were received.
The Chairman stated that this meeting had been called to understand and ask questions in relation to licensing and pointed out that Members had authority to put their views forward to the appropriate department if they felt that there were too many off-licences in an area. Councillor Lamb said that this subject was often raised at Planning Committee. The Chairman stated that even if the Planners gave permission to an applicant to turn a normal shop into an off-licence the Licensing Authority could look into this further – in fact, these issues needed to be brought forward more often. The Licensing & Business Support Manager advised that cumulative impact would have to be heavily evidence based. Councillor Sharp asked if it was possible for a person to be disqualified from holding a Premises Licence. Mr Grover stated that there was no such thing as being disqualified from holding such a licence but a personal licence could be removed under certain circumstances. In response, Councillor Sharp asked how the Police would know if an applicant applying for a premises licence who was new to the area had been involved in criminal activities. Members were informed that this was one of the reasons why so many checks were carried out to determine a person’s background. The system was far from perfect as there was no central database or recording systems; however, a different system was in place for a personal licence. Hackney Carriage Licences were mentioned where opportunities/second chances were given to applicants at the Appeals Committee discretion.
In response to a further question about cumulative impact and whether the amount of licensed premises were taken into consideration, the Licensing & Business Support Officer advised that if there were many such premises in close proximity crime levels could be classed as suitable evidence; however, there were no exclusion zones in the East. She mentioned a similar case in Brighton where the costs of bringing such a case forward had been extortionate.
Mr Grover said that we were quite fortunate in Norfolk as there was a good working relationship between the responsible authorities. He reminded Members that they were quite welcome to participate in visiting premises which could quite easily be arranged. The Licensing & Business Support Officer said that she had accompanied the Chairman on one of these visits – there had not been any problems but it had been a good experience for all concerned.
The Chairman thanked Mr Grover for attending the meeting and encouraged him to stay for the remainder.