Sheffield University ‘Irresponsible’ promotion puts licence at risk

The Mandatory Condition of ‘Irresponsible Promotions’ has been the subject of a lot of discussion over the last year, specifically over compliance issues and how enforceable the condition is.

We have been advising our clients to be wary of the suggestion that this Mandatory Condition is not enforceable and thus can be ignored; our opinion being that although there are undoubtedly issues surrounding the effectiveness of the condition, as a mandatory condition it adds to the requirement of licence holders to promote the licensing objectives, by not carrying out irresponsible promotions.

My point being that although there may not at this time be the will or sufficient legal basis for a prosecution under the mandatory condition for which the maximum penalty would be a £20,000 fine and / or 6 months imprisonment, it could be a significant factor in a licence review.

The outcome of a review can easily be more damaging to the business than the maximum penalty available under the mandatory conditions; the outcome of a licence review could include the possibility of additional conditions, removal of licensable activities or revocation of the premises licence itself.

I can’t remember the number of times I have reinforced the point that within the licensed hospitality and licensed retail sector, a pro-active approach must be taken. Issues must be avoided by putting effective measures into place to prevent incidents and promote the licensing objectives, because when something does go wrong, the law does not provide significant room for manoeuvre beyond the provision of a due diligence defence.

The University of Sheffield event where alcohol was being promoted has led the police to raise concerns with regard to ‘irresponsible promotions’ and request a review of the licence. A student received head injuries and a punctured lung after leaving the event and being hit by a bus. More on this story (BBC).

In this case a pro-active approach is the same as an insurance policy and should be treated with equal gravity. If you wouldn’t operate without insurance why would you ignore your obligations under licensing law, which could lead to equally serious and potentially catastrophic consequences for your business.

The outcome of this case at Sheffield University will be keenly followed and although the BBC report contains some inaccuracies in relation to the process, if the Police pursue the licence review on the basis of the irresponsible promotion of alcohol leading to this serious accident, that the promotion was a factor in the accident could have consequences beyond their own licence.

Their defence in this case will rely on proving they took their duty of care sufficiently seriously to prevent such instances taking place; the argument that the same event has been held for 14 years without incidence holds little weight.

I know the University sector very well and by their very nature these organisations have significant measures in place to support students, what will be tested is if these are targeted properly and if there is any conflict of interest between the welfare services alcohol awareness campaigns and the high levels of alcohol consumption and promotions designed to generate the income these organisations rely heavily on. It’s a balancing act where the training and enforcement of that training will play a key role.


To view the original article – Click Here

Source – BBC

Date – 16th December 2011

Submitted by – Peter Mayhew


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