LB Hillingdon v Ladbrokes: Critical Importance of Evidence
In September Ladbrokes applied to LB Hillingdon for a betting licence in the pedestrian centre of Uxbridge, adjacent to the underground station and the retail heart of the town. Hillingdon refused the licence based on a number of locational factors:
- that this was a high profile, pedestrian area extensively used by children;
- that it was adjacent to family-oriented cafes;
- that it was in the same locality as drug and alcohol treatment facilities, drop in centres and the like;
- that the proposal was inconsistent with the character of the area; and
- that other bookmakers had suffered problems with drug deals in their vicinity, the risk of which should not be allowed here.
On appeal, the Magistrates’ Court overturned LB Hillingdon’s decision and granted a licence without conditions. It held that there was no reason to believe that granting the licence would be a cause of crime and disorder, bearing in mind the fitness of the operator and their policies and operating procedures. The Court was content that Ladbrokes’ method of operation and the procedure for statutory review would address any concerns regarding public disorder or crime.
On 23rd October 2013, the Court made a costs order in favour of Ladbrokes in the sum of £32,000.
The Court took into account the principles expressed in City of Bradford MBC v Booth. It held that while the original decision had been within the powers of the Council to make, the rationale of the decision had not been supported by the evidence adduced by the Council. Accordingly, the Court held that the Council’s decision in refusing the licence was unsound, and further that examination of Ladbrokes’ case should have shown that the Council’s case, as prepared for court, would not succeed.
Philip Kolvin QC, who acted for Ladbrokes, commented that this case demonstrates the critical importance for councils to support their decision with proper evidence on appeal. If they do not, they risk an order for costs, however sound their decision may have appeared at the time.