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LICENSING SUB-COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 25th October, 2013.

 

Present:  Councillors G.A. Cox, Mrs. V.M. Hartrey and R.P. Thomas.

 

Also present: Licensing Officer, South Wales Police and Trading Standards.

 

 

(a)       Appointment of Chairman:

 

Councillor R.P. Thomas was elected Chairman for the duration of the hearing.

 

 

(b)       Declarations of Interest -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

(c)        Licensing Act 2003 - Application for the Review of a Premises Licence Held at Misha News, 81 Cardiff Road, Barry -

 

Also present: Mr. H. Patel and Mrs. A. Patel.

 

The Chairman took the opportunity to remind those present of the procedure for the review hearing as contained within the Agenda and following and following introductions all round, welcomed those present to the meeting. 

 

The Licensing Officer then proceeded to outline the application advising that on 2nd September, 2013 the Licensing Section had received an application for a review of the premises licence for Misha News at 81 Cardiff Road, Barry from the Trading Standards Department of the Vale of Glamorgan Council.  The review application had been made in relation to the undermining of two of the licensing objectives, the prevention of crime and disorder and the protection of children from harm.  The review application was attached at Appendix B to the report.  Further representations in support of the review application had also been received from South Wales Police on 24th September, 2013 and these representations were attached at Appendix C to the report.

As background information Members were informed that on 4th August 2005 an application had been made to convert the existing Justices licence for 81 Cardiff Road to a Premises Licence under the Licensing Act 2003.  No representations had been received at the time and the licence was granted under delegated authority on 2nd September August 2005.

 

In September 2008 the licence was transferred to Mr. Hiran Patel and Mrs. Avani Patel with Mr. Patel becoming the Designated Premises Supervisor. 

 

Mr. Patel also holds a Personal Licence issued by Cardiff County Council.

 

A copy of the Premises Licence was attached at Appendix A to the Report.

 

In presenting their case the Trading Standards Officer advised that in conjunction with the local police routine test purchases are carried out on a range of premises across the Vale of Glamorgan.  In order to assist in this process young volunteers, who are under the age of 18 are recruited to assist. It was highlighted that throughout 2012/13 the Trading Standards Department had been carrying out numerous checks on local alcohol retailers as part of a funded project initiated by the Safer Vale Partnership with the objectives of the project being to reduce the availability of alcohol to young people and thus reduce the level of harm. The Sub–Committee was informed that the Licensing Act 2003 makes provisions about the regulation of the sale of alcohol and about offences related to alcohol and for connected purposes.

 

Section 146 (1) of the Licensing Act 2003 makes it a criminal offence for someone to sell alcohol to a person under the age of 18.  There is however, a defence in the legislation that the person believed that the purchaser was over the age of 18 and they took all reasonable steps to establish the person’s age.  In this regard a person is deemed to have taken all reasonable steps if they have asked for proof of age.  A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary convictions to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale. 

 

In referring to Misha News it was stated this was an established business which had been under the current ownership for approximately four years.  It was owned by a husband and wife partnership and they were both premises licence holders with Mr. Patel being named as the Designated Premises Supervisor.  The premises was licensed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Licensing Department for the sale of alcohol between the hours of 08:00 until 23:00 hours, although the opening times were different. Other than the standard mandatory conditions there had been no conditions placed on the licence at the time. 

 

On 17th October, 2012 officers from Trading Standards instructed a 15 year old volunteer to enter Misha News at 81 Cardiff Road, Barry and attempt to purchase alcohol.  The volunteer was successful in the purchase and the seller, Mrs. A. Patel, made no attempt to ask for identification or to verify age.  The volunteer left the premises and an officer from the Trading Standards Department and the South Wales Police returned to the store.  This prompted further investigation into business practices.  The Committee was informed that at the time neither of the premises licence holders could provide any valid reason for the sale taking place and in May 2013 a prosecution case was heard at Cardiff Magistrates Court when Mr. and Mrs. Patel were found guilty of selling alcohol to someone under the age of 18 years.  Mr. Patel was fined £265 and Mrs. Patel £200.  Costs were also awarded to the Vale of Glamorgan Council. 

 

The Trading Standards Officer also advised that the sale of alcohol had been disappointing as, in July 2010, Mr. Patel had sold tobacco to a 15 year old volunteer contrary to Section 7 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.  At that time Mr. Patel had been offered a caution as the owner and seller of tobacco which he had accepted.  Following this incident officers had highlighted areas of concern and provided Mr. Patel with advice including the use of a refusals register.  However, it would also appear that this advice had not been heeded as ten refusals had not been entered into the log.  Mr. Patel was also advised that he could at any time contact the Department for further advice or guidance. 

 

In the two years since the incident the Trading Standards Officer stated that there appeared to have been no attempt to rectify any of the shortcomings that had been identified and to put any procedures in place in order to prevent another sale taking place.  Similarly, Mr. and Mrs. Patel, nor anyone else connected with the business had sought any guidance or assistance from the Department in relation to age restricted sales.  To date there was no refusal registers at the store and there were no policies or procedures implemented. It was also stated that Mr. and Mrs. Patel had a poor grasp of the Licensing Act 2003 and the obligations under it and also appeared not to understand how to verify someone's age and the importance of such a check.

 

In conclusion the Trading Standards Officer requested that the Sub-Committee consider a number of options either to revoke the licence, suspend the licence or agree that conditions be placed on the licence.  If the Sub-Committee were minded to agree to placing conditions on the licence the Trading Standards Officer advised that they would recommend the following conditions as detailed in their report at Appendix B :-

 

1.         That the premises licence holders (PLH) attend a training course to update their knowledge on the Licensing Act and their responsibilities.

 

2.         The PLH shall ensure that full training is provided to all staff on commencement of employment on the law relating to the sale of age restricted products and any system or procedures that they are expected to follow in the course of dealing with these goods.

 

3.         The PLH shall ensure that refresher training is provided, at least every six months, to new and existing staff on the law relating to underage sale of alcohol.

 

4.         The PLH shall keep written records of all training provided on the law relating to underage sales of alcohol.  All staff are to sign and date the records to confirm that the training has been completed.  Training records are to be retained on the premises for a minimum of two years and produced to Trading Standards or South Wales Police on request.

 

5.         That digital CCTV be installed at the premises to all areas to which the public have access and should cover any entrances and exits to the premises.  This CCTV system should meet the minimum specification as agreed with South Wales Police and should be capable of capturing images to an evidential standard.  These recordings should be kept for a minimum of 31 days and should be made available to Trading Standards or South Wales Police on request.

 

6.         That the PLH implements and operates a minimum of a Challenge 25 policy and that signage in store should reflect this policy.

 

7.         The PLH must formulate an age verification policy which should be agreed with Trading Standards and should be kept at the store.  This policy should be reviewed with Trading Standards on an annual basis.

 

8.         The PLH must implement and operate a refusals register.  All refusals and alcohol related incidents must be recorded in this register.  The register should be made available to Trading Standards or South Wales Police on request.  The register should be audited by the PLH on a regular basis.  These records should be retained for 36 months.

 

9.         That all sales of alcohol are made by a personal licence holder (N.B. The PLH has advised me that only Hiran and Avani Patel work here, and they have personal licences).

 

10.       The Department has also considered whether two members of staff being on the shop floor would assist in feeling more confident to challenge for identification.  However, as the shop is very small and predominantly run by Mr. and Mrs. Patel, this could seem to be detrimental to their ability to run their business effectively.

 

The South Wales Police Officer who was present at the hearing stated that he supported the premises licence review that had been submitted by the Trading Standards Department and was of the same opinion as the Trading Standards Officer. Should the Sub–Committee consider placing conditions on the licence he would support those outlined by the Trading Standards Officer and which were referred to in his email at Appendix C to the report.

 

Mr. and Mrs. Patel were then afforded an opportunity by the Chairman to ask questions of the Responsible Authorities.  Mr. Patel stated that the history of selling was in respect of two different matters and in particular he clarified that when in court they had not been found guilty but had admitted that they were guilty and had also paid the penalty accordingly. 

 

Mrs. Patel, in referring to the report that mentioned that there were no procedures and policies in place at the store, advised that there were all sorts of messages and policies displayed in the store and she provided photographic evidence to the hearing for this.

With regard to the refusals register, Mrs. Patel stated that one was maintained and a photocopy of the document was also tabled for Members’ information. 

 

In referring to the suggestion that no attempts to rectify any of their mistakes had been made, she stated that both she and Mr. Patel regularly kept themselves updated on current issues by use of on-line information.  This referred to all changes taking place in law, the rules and the regulations which were undertaken from time to time.  Again further handouts were submitted as evidence.

With regard to CCTV cameras in store, CCTV was currently available which covered the whole shop area including the entrance and exit area.  A store policy was also displayed on the entrance door and again copies of this information was tabled for the Sub-Committee.  Mr. and Mrs. Patel stated that they did not have any staff in store at present but that they fully understood that if they did employ staff those staff would have to have full training regarding the rules and regulations, that it be updated every six months and the documentation signed and dated.  Mrs. Patel stated that both she and her husband disputed the fact they did not have knowledge to run the shop, they were both personal licence holders and had undertaken courses and exams for all the legal processes. 

 

Mrs. Patel referred to the incident in question by advising that although she was fully aware of the mistake made she wished to apprise the Members of the situation at the time which was that her 1½ year old was in the shop and at the time the volunteer had entered, her daughter had hurt herself and Mrs. Patel had been distracted. Initially, following the sale her husband, in their native language, said that the person did not look old enough, but it was too late then to rectify the situation. 

 

Mrs. Patel concluded by stating that as this was the first mistake of a sale of alcohol she requested the Sub-Committee Members to consider not to take any action against the premises licence.  They were both very sorry for the mistake that had been and wished to assure the Sub-Committee that in the future this type of mistake would not be repeated.  Mr. and Mrs. Patel urged the Committee to not suspend or revoke their premises licence from Misha News.

 

In summing up, the Trading Standards Officer stated that on a number of occasions when she had visited the store young children had been present and this had been a concern to the Department.  However, Mrs. Patel advised that her eldest daughter was now in school and her younger daughter in a private nursery so the time spent on the premises was limited.

 

The South Wales Police Officer also asked whether a till prompt was present in the shop, to which both Mr. and Mrs. Patel responded that one was not currently available, however, they were thinking of purchasing one although  this would depend on the cost. 

 

In response to a query from a Member as to whether some of the recommended conditions in the report had already been put in place on the premises and whether Mr. and Mrs. Patel were willing to introduce the remaining conditions, Mrs. Patel confirmed that this was in fact the case.

 

The Chairman having asked all present if they wished to make any further representations, sum up or whether they wished to say anything further following a response of no by all parties stated that the Sub-Committee would therefore retire to consider the matter in private.

 

On return, the Chairman stated that having considered the application, representations by the Trading Standards Department, South Wales Police and Mr. and Mrs. Patel, the Sub-Committee had

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the licence be amended to include the following  conditions:-

 

1.         Premises Licence Holders update their knowledge on the Licensing Act and their responsibilities and must be able to evidence this.

 

2.         That the PLH shall ensure that full training is provided to all staff on commencement of employment on the law relating to the sale of age restricted products and any system or procedures that they are expected to follow in the course of dealing with these goods.  This condition to be implemented should staff commence employment.

 

3.         The Premises Licence Holder shall require that any refresher training is provided and is documented.

 

4.         All records should be retained on the premises for a minimum of 2 years and must be able to be produced to Trading Standards and South Wales Police on request.

 

5.         That digital CCTV be installed at the premises to all areas to which the public have access and should cover any entrances and exits to the premises.  This CCTV system should meet the minimum specification as agreed with South Wales Police and should be capable of capturing images to an evidential standard.  These recordings should be kept for a minimum of 31 days and should be made available to Trading Standards or South Wales Police on request.

 

6.         That the PLH implements and operates a minimum of a Challenge 25 policy and that signage in store should reflect this policy.

 

7.         The PLH must formulate an age verification policy which should be agreed with Trading Standards and should be kept at the store.  This policy should be reviewed with Trading Standards on an annual basis.

 

8.         The PLH must implement and operate a refusals register.  All refusals and alcohol related incidents must be recorded in this register.  The register should be made available to Trading Standards or South Wales Police on request.  The register should be audited by the PLH on a regular basis.  These records should be retained for 36 months.

 

The Chairman also took the opportunity to ask Mr. and Mrs. Patel to note the following as contained in both the Trading Standards and South Wales Police Officer's reports:

 

·                That all sales of alcohol are made by a personal licence holder (N.B. The PLH has advised me that only Hiran and Avani Patel work here, and they have personal licences).

 

·                The Department has also considered whether two members of staff being on the shop floor would assist in feeling more confident to challenge for identification.  However, as the shop is very small and predominantly run by Mr. and Mrs. Patel, this could seem to be detrimental to their ability to run their business effectively.

 

Reason for decision

 

Having taken into account the concerns of the Trading Standards Department and South Wales Police, the representations made at the hearing by Mr. and Mrs. Patel and their agreement to adhere to the conditions as detailed above.  The Sub-Committee were satisfied that the licensing objectives, namely the prevention of crime and disorder and the protection of children from harm, had not been upheld as evidenced by the Trading Standards prosecution and Mr. and Mrs. Patel's acceptance of the same and that the operation of the new conditions should minimise the future reoccurrence of the undermining of the Licensing Objectives.