Sarah Clover successfully defends well-known LGBT Venue in Plymouth after Summary Review bought by Police

Police brought a summary review application against OMG, a LGBT club in Plymouth. OMG is part of a national chain of venues, and the owner is an experienced licensee of over twenty years.

Previously a nightclub, OMG was re-purposed to a bar for day and night time trade. The premises had never had any notable issue before in the seven years of trading. On an evening shortly after re-opening the premises as a bar in July, Police requested OMG doorstaff to leave their positions to assist Police with wider issues in the Barbican in Plymouth. In that space of time, a couple were reported inside the premises for having sex, and were ejected. Later, a report of rape was made by the female complainant, and it was unclear whether the allegation related to the incident within the club, or an incident later in the night.

The Police Summary Review certificate was served 13 days after the incident, and had no details upon it other than the basic allegation of rape of a woman over 16. No circumstances were set out at all, and no “connection relevant to the regulation of the premises” was explained, nor any need for preventative measures, in contravention of the principles set out in Sharanjeet Lalli v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis & London Borough of Newham [2015] EWHC 14 (Admin)

At the summary review hearing, the Police indicated that they “were not seeking immediate revocation of the licence”, and it had to be pointed out that this was not an option open to the Licensing Committee in any event.

The Police sought in the hearing to rely upon evidential material that had not been disclosed prior to the hearing. On two occasions, the hearing had to be halted, to give the Committee and the licensee an opportunity to read the material that the Police were attempting to refer to. This undermined the Police case. The Police had not disclosed the CCTV footage of the incident.

It became apparent during the hearing that the Police had no awareness of the guidance given by Home Office Minister, Kit Malthouse in a letter in April to the Chairs of Licensing Committees, and from the Local Government Association, Institute of Licensing and others to take a more pragmatic and sympathetic approach to businesses during the coronavirus crisis, and had not taken this into account in bringing the review.

The Police case for the connection of the premises with crime and disorder (as recorded in the Decision Notice) was:

“Reason for the associate (sic) of the crime to the premises was that door staff were too friendly and too kind to police officers and therefore left their posts to help manage people not related to the premises; and also the fact that there were no staff members on the floor.”

The Committee expressed some concern that the act had occurred in the premises, but declined to suspend the premises licence. As an interim step, the Committee imposed a condition that between the hours of 11pm until close of the venue, a SIA registered door staff must staff each floor within the premises. The Committee further recommended that all staff be updated on the Ask Angela policy with evidence of this produced at the final review hearing.

At the full review in August, the Police attempted to introduce CCTV footage two working days before the hearing. It had been edited by the Police, and the Committee refused to allow it to be shown.

The Police presented a long list of 32 conditions which they asked to be added to the licence.  These ranged from fourteen conditions about training, including “staff shall be trained to perform their role”; a condition that staff should make “all reasonable efforts to keep the impact of the users of the outside area on the surrounding community to a minimum”, to “polycarbonate containers on Bank Holiday weekends”. The Police representative accepted that many of the proposed conditions had nothing to do with the Summary Review, but asked for them to be added anyway, “to tidy up the licence”.

On behalf of the Licensee, Sarah resisted the conditions on the basis that they were not required for such an experienced and compliant Licensee. She also asserted that it was far preferable to have policies concerning training and staff performance, which could be amended and updated when required, rather than trying to micro-manage the licence with reams of specific conditions. The Committee agreed.  Although they reiterated their concern that this incident had occurred in the premises, and that perhaps more could have been done to safeguard the young woman in a potentially intoxicated state, the Committee confirmed that it was not for them to make determinations as to precisely what had occurred.  Their job was “to reach a determination as to what steps were appropriate and proportionate to prevent any future incidents and to promote the licensing objectives”.

Their conclusion was that they “did not consider that it is necessary to impose the conditions suggested by the Police and do not consider that this review is the appropriate place to revise the full premises licence conditions and would expect the Police and the premises licence holder to meet separately on this point to agree any changes by variation.” The Committee imposed one single condition, requiring staff to be given training and refresher training in accordance with the Licensee’s policies.

The Licensee’s case was squarely and robustly presented on the basis that the Police had been heavy-handed, and unnecessarily aggressive in their approach, damaging the business, and also the important partnership working and trust between the Licensee and the Police. Effectively, the Committee rejected the Police case, both at Summary and Full Review.  “

The decision letters for the Summary Review and Full review are included below.

Decision Letter (Expedited) – Full Review

Decision Letter (Expedited) Review Interim Steps

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