The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Something New

I found myself chairing a licensing appeal the other day. It is more than a decade since I last dealt with a licensing matter, and in that time the rules have changed completely. It used to be the case that magistrates dealt with licensing, and most benches elected a specialist panel to do the work. There were one-off applications of one sort or another, single-justice directions to deal with, and regular licensing ('Brewster') Sessions, which saw our local publicans turning up looking unnaturally smart in their jackets and ties, before adjourning to a nearby public house to swap gossip and sink a few pints. Now the function has been delegated to the Local Authority's Licensing Committee (that was supposed to cut down on drunkenness and disorder - the results are now evident). Magistrates act as an appeal court to the Council's decisions, and that's where we found ourselves. Neither I nor my colleagues nor the clerk had ever done one of these, so we all had a bit of reading and learning to do - about 250 pages of law and legal submissions for a start. We couldn't finish the case, and will go back to do so, but two points struck me; firstly that a great deal of money is at stake if we uphold the Council's decision, and secondly that one of the cases we shall have to have regard to is Hope & Glory Public House Ltd v City of Westminster Magistrates' Court. What a splendid title for a case! There are pages and pages of transcript, so I shall know a lot more about licensing in a few weeks than I do now.