Procedural defects does not automatically render proceedings invalid – High Court

Procedural defects does not automatically render proceedings invalid – High CourtIt was reported today that the High Court found, in the case of R (D&D Bar Services Ltd) v Romford Magistrates Court and the London Borough of Redbridge [2014] EWHC 213 Admin, that procedural defects do not automatically render licence review proceedings invalid.  This is the first time the High Court has considered this recurring point in the context of the Licensing Act 2003.

 

The case concerned Funky Mojoe, a well-known nightclub in South Woodford.  In April 2013, at a review hearing before the London Borough of Redbridge licensing sub-committee, its hours were curbed to not operate past midnight.

 

The nightclub was located next to an apartment block where mainly elderly and retired residents lived. They had been subjected to many years of disturbance as a result of the club's operation into the early hours. At least two earlier review hearings had failed to address the problems. In January 2013, the licensing authority launched a further review application following an escalation in violent incidents and continuing public nuisance issues. A Blue Notice advertising the review was displayed, in the usual way, at the premises pursuant to regulations 38 and 39 of The Licensing Act 2003 (Premises licences and club premises certificates) Regulations 2005.  However the notice was "defective" because it did not comply with the strict terms of the regulations in two aspects:

 

1) It did not contain the "grounds of the application for review" as required by regulation 39(c). Instead it simply recited the two licensing objectives engaged: "Prevention of crime and disorder" and "Prevention of public nuisance". The magistrates' court had little difficulty in concluding that merely stating the licensing objectives engaged does not amount to setting out the "grounds".

 

2) The final three lines of the Notice indicating where the full application could be inspected was printed in 14-font rather than the minimum 16-font specified in regulation 38(a)(i)(cc).

 

In brief, HHJ Blackett held:

 

"...in my view it could never have been the intention of Parliament that minor errors on a notice or advertisement for a licensing review should make any subsequent consideration of the licence void. Such an approach would lead to absurd consequences. It is clear that there must be substantial compliance with Regulations 38(1) (a) and 39 but the process should not be frustrated by minor errors. "

 

"It is a case which has been handled impeccably by the Licensing Sub Committee and the District Judge on appeal. The submission from the Claimant that the process should be invalidated solely because of two minor errors on a notice is entirely without merit."

 

The claim for judicial review was dismissed with costs awarded to the London Borough of Redbridge.

 

Source and for more discussion & context relating to the case, please visit the Institute of Licensing’s website.