Coronavirus: D-day for defaulters

By Jack Cummins

THE small minority of licensed outlets that defied the Scottish Government’s order to close could find themselves facing sanctions sooner than expected.

Police Scotland has already indicated that it intends to report defaulters to the local licensing board after issuing emergency closure orders.

The orders were made under Section 97 of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005 empowering an officer of the rank of inspector or above to order closure on public safety grounds linked to disorder. The closure period must not exceed 24 hours – but it can be extended for a similar period.

In those cases, it’s open to police to call for a review on the ground that the licence holder is no longer a “fit and proper person” or another ground relevant to the licensing objectives. Boards are also permitted to institute review proceedings on their own initiative.

And hearings could take place much earlier than expected.

Provisions in the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill, published today (March 31) and expected to be passed in Parliament late tomorrow, will allow boards to hold “remote” hearings despite the current emergency.

Where the board decides that coronavirus prevents an “in person” hearing, it can take place by telephone, written representations or – if the board has the technology in place – by means of a video conference.

At a review hearing, the board can take a number of steps “necessary or appropriate for the purposes of any of the licensing objectives”.

These are:

  • Issue a warning.
  • Vary the licence.
  • Suspend the licence for any period.
  • Revoke the licence.

For defaulters who shut down after the closure order, but continued to operate legally with takeaways and deliveries, it could be the end of the line.

Jack Cummins is one of Scotland’s leading licensing lawyers. Every month he writes on licensing law and answers readers’ questions in SLTN.

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Jack Cummins is unable to enter into personal correspondence on readers’ questions. The advice offered in SLTN is published for information only. No responsibility for loss occasioned by persons acting or refraining from action as a result of material contained in SLTN can be accepted by the author or publisher.