Minutes of a meeting held on 3rd April, 2013.
Present: Councillors H. Hamilton, K. Hatton and J.W. Thomas.
Also present: Responsible Authorities – Licensing Officer, Trading Standards and South Wales Police.
The procedure for the hearing had been attached to the agenda and was available for those present at the meeting.
(a) Appointment of Chairman –
Councillor J.W. 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 – Premier Stores, 218 Holton Road, Barry, CF63 4HQ –
Mr. Gill (Director of the Company)
Applicant’s Solicitor (Leo Abse and Cohen solicitors)
Following introductions all round, the Chairman welcomed those present to the hearing. An application for a review of the premises licence had been received from the Trading Standards Department of the Vale of Glamorgan Council. The review 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 Licensing Officer in presenting the report outlined that on 19th July 2005 the existing licence for 218 Holton Road had been converted to a premises licence under the Licensing Act 2003. No representations had been received at that time and the licence had been granted under delegated authority on 18th August 2005. On 20th January 2009 an application had been submitted to transfer the licence to BLG Ltd and to vary the licence to Mrs. Karamjit Gill as the Designated Premises Supervisor. Mrs. Gill was subsequently granted a personal licence on 29th September 2006. However, on 25th June 2009 an application for a Review of the Premises Licence was made by the Trading Standards Department and having been considered by a Licensing Sub-Committee at that time a number of conditions were added to the licence. The minutes of that hearing were attached at Appendix A to the report for Members information.
Since that date, and as stated above, on 5th February 2013, the Licensing Section received a further application for a review (attached at Appendix B to the report ) from the Trading Standards Department of the Vale of Glamorgan Council. Representations in support of the review application were also received from South Wales Police on 28th February 2013 a copy of those representations were attached at Appendix C to the report.
Following the presentation of the report by the Licensing officer the Trading Standards Officer commenced by advising that the Trading Standards department was a responsible authority under the Act and referred to the three options available to the Committee, i.e. revocation of the licence, suspension of the licence or that further conditions be placed on the licence as outlined above.
On 15th March 2012 officers from the Trading Standards Department had instructed a 15 year old female volunteer to enter the Premier Stores at 218 Holton Road, Barry and attempt to purchase alcohol. The volunteer had been successful in the purchase, with the seller at the time making no attempt to ask to verify her age. The volunteer left the premises and an officer from Trading Standards and the Police returned to the store later that day where a fixed penalty notice was issued. The Designated Premises Supervisor was then approached and advised that officers would be undertaking further investigations with a possible review of the licence. Over a period of 6 months in 2012 the premises had been found to be not complying with the conditions on their licence on a number of occasions despite the Designated Premises Supervisor being made aware of the issues. Mrs. Gill was subsequently requested to attend a formal interview following which documents were examined by officers from the Trading Standards Department who noted that the records were found to be identical for every member of staff, with the same marks on each test. The only conclusion that officers could come to at the time was that one set of tests had been photocopied and various names inserted for the purposes of the interview. It was also noted that the signatures did not match. Copies of the documents were provided at the hearing for information.
Following the discovery of the documents it had been decided to interview Mrs. Gill in relation to the discrepancies. It was also apparent to officers that the licensing conditions were not being complied with at the premises. Committee was advised that copies of transcripts of both interviews could be made available if required.
It was therefore the view of the Trading Standards Officer that the conditions that had been imposed on the licence had only been partly met and that it was apparent the business continued to breach its conditions.
The conditions that had been imposed in 2009 were detailed as follows :
1. That CCTV be installed to cover all entrances to the premises. This should extend to the street outside and should be made available to Trading Standards or South Wales Police on request. All images to be retained for at least 31 days.
The observations of Trading Sandrads were that CCTV appeared to be working at the premises and had good coverage. However, CCTV footage of the incident had not been provided to Trading Standards, despite repeated requests.
2. That all staff working at the premises be trained in the sale of alcohol. This training should be documented and available for inspection by Trading Standards or South Wales Police on request.
Observations: Mrs. Gill had presented training documents in relation to staff employed by the business. Trading Standards had inspected these training records and all were duplicates of one record. It was the opinion of the department that these training records had been falsified either to prove that the condition was being met, or to give the impression of a due diligence defence to avoid prosecution or review proceedings. Copies of the training records were provided to Committee for consideration. The Trading Standards officer advised that if some records, i.e. training records had been falsified, they also had to cast doubt on any other records presented to the Authority.
3. That a personal licence holder be present at the premises when all sales of alcohol take place (to take effect from 25th June 2009).
Observations: At the time of last interview, the only person who held a personal licence at the premises was Mrs. Gill. As the premises had a licence to sell alcohol from 8.00am to 11.00pm on weekdays and 10.00am until 10.30pm, this would mean that Mrs. Gill would have to work a 102.5 hour week to comply with the conditions on the licence. Mrs. Gill provided had documents to the department stating that two of the directors of the company had also passed the examination to become a personal licence holder, but had not applied for their licence. As at January 2013, the Local Authority had not yet received any applications for a personal licence from Harpreet or Iqbal Singh Gill.
On numerous visits to the premises over the past nine months, it had been observed by officers that a personal licence holder had not been present at the store when sales of alcohol were being made. The Trading Standards asked that the Committee considers whether the wording of the condition was appropriate. The suggestion made was that at least it should be amended to ensure that the personal licence holder was on the shop floor when all sales of alcohol were made. The department also felt that in view of the history of non compliance non-compliance at the premises that all sales of alcohol should be made by a personal licence holder.
4. There will be at least two members of staff available at the premises when alcohol is sold.
Observations: On numerous occasions, officers from Trading Standards had visited the premises and found only one member of staff on the shop floor. On 6th March 2012, when the last sale of alcohol was made, the seller was on the shop floor on his own. On a further four visits, the sales assistant was on the shop floor on their own. Mrs. Gill explained that there was always someone available upstairs ,however, this had not been the case when officers from Trading Standards had visited. It is was the opinion of Trading Standards that having someone in the living accommodation above the store did not meet the spirit of the condition. Trading Standards had therefore asked the Committee to consider amending the condition to reflect that there should be two members of staff on the shop floor at all times when alcohol was sold.
5. That in the absence of the Designated Premises Supervisor, written authorisation be given to any other member of staff to sell alcohol on his/her behalf.
Observations: Mrs. Gill has provided the department with written authorisations for staff. However, there had been concerns that the signatures provided on the paperwork do not correspond with other documents signed by the same person.
6. That a robust system be put in place to record the refusal of any sales of age restricted products. This should be available for inspection by Trading Standards or South Wales Police on request. These documents should be retained for 48 months.
Observations: The current refusals register had been retained by Trading Standards on 6th March 2012, and a further six registers had been provided by Mrs. Gill. The registers had appeared to have been used but there was some concern that there was a higher than average number of refusals in the registers which had mostly related to tobacco. In the most recent register, there were 30 entries with 3 being for alcohol.
7. That the premises implements and supports the “Challenge 21” scheme.
Observations: Trading Standards requested the Committee consider amending the condition to state “a minimum of Challenge 25” to be in place at the premises, including promotional material coupled with a No ID, No Sale ethic. A clear policy on age verification should also be drafted and agreed with Trading Standards, to be reviewed on an annual basis.
Following representation from Trading Standards Department, the Police Licensing officer representing South Wales Police advised that they were in support of the recommendations that had been made by the Trading Standards Department. PC Barrett also confirmed that he had worked with Trading Standards in order to try to assist the premises but as a result of having had little or no response from the owners and the Designated Premises Supervisor, they had considered a review to be essential.
The Chairman then called upon the respondent to present their case. The Director of the premises’ representative advised that Mrs. Gill was unable to be present at the meeting due to the fact that she was abroad in respect of a family issue and asked the Committee to consider a request for an adjournment of the proceedings. However, following consideration of the request Licensing Sub-Committee Members agreed that the proceedings would take place in view of the serious nature of the issue and as such, no adjournment was granted. The Solicitor then presented his case to the Committee advising that a computerised till system had been installed at the premises and up to £4,500 had been spent on the system. In referring to the alledged falsification of tests he queried how the department could have reached this conclusion as he also had a number of training documents in his possession which highlighted that individual members of staff had undertaken training. The Trading Standards Officer replied that the documents in question were the ones that had been presented at the interview with Mrs. Gill in 2012 and consequently both sets of information from the two parties were with agreement by all presented to Members for their information.
In referring to the Designated Premises Supervisor being on the premises, the representative advised that there was currently CCTV in situ at the premises and the screen could also be seen upstairs at the premises. He further advised that at the Committee meeting in 2009 Members at that time were aware, as indicated in the minutes attached at Appendix A to the report, that the upstairs premises was family accommodation and that both Mr. and Mrs. Gill lived at the premises. The solicitor also pointed out that in view of this, there was therefore usually three people on the premises at any one time. In further presenting the case he also advised that if the review was unsuccessful, it would provide significant economic hardship for the family and urged the Sub-Committee to consider not revoking Mrs. Gill’s personal DPS licence for at least three to four weeks in order for a new representative to be able to apply for a licence as it would take approximately two to three weeks for the CRB check to be completed. The accounts of the business for 2012 were also presented to the Committee for information to show the financial hardship that could be caused to the business.
In conclusion the representative urged the Panel to consider the systems that had already been introduced at the premises i.e. the CCTV and the new till system that had been put in place and that the Director, Mr. Gill, would comply with the majority of conditions as requested by Trading Standards. The main issue for the family was the time delay in obtaining a CRB check for the appointment of a new DPS. He agreed that Mrs Gill “had taken her eyes off the ball” and that another brother who himself held a DPS licence would also assist by taking a more hands on approach with the premises.
The Trading Standards Officer was then invited to sum up and advised that the reason the department had commenced the investigation was as a result of the failed purchase test. The Applicants had been given ample time to plan for the future and to progress the issue but the department had not received any information to date. In their opinion there was a complete lack of understanding and a laissez-faire attitude which the Trading Standards Department could not ignore.
The Police Officer stated that in his view, conditions 3 and 4 had not been addressed and he concurred with the Trading Standards Officer’s view of the situation.
The respondents Solicitor in summing up reiterated that Mrs. Gill had taken “her eyes off the ball” and that a manager had recently been appointed and that Mr. Gill would be present more often. His brother would also have a more hands on approach at the store. He pointed out that there had been issues in 2009 with anti social behaviour by youngsters but that this had improved considerably and he wished the Committee to recognise the good work that had been undertaken by the family at the premises within the community. The Directors of the company agreed that the situation needed to be addressed and that Mrs Gill should step down as the DPS but he urged the Committee to provide the business with a further three to four weeks grace to allow for the paperwork for a new DPS to be completed.
Members, in seeking legal advice at the meeting, were advised that the economic situation of the business was not a licensing objective that should be considered.
Following the representations, the Sub-Committee Members then retired to consider the application in private.
Having considered the application for review of the premises licence of Premier Stores, 218 Holton Road, Barry, brought by Trading Standards and supported by the South Wales Police, the Sub Committee have taken into consideration the Home Office Guidance, the Objectives of the Licensing Act 2003, particularly the Protection of Children From Harm and the Prevention of Crime and Disorder, and the Council’s Statement of Licensing Policy together with all representations made at today’s meeting, the Sub Committee have
(1) T H A T Mrs. K. Gill be removed as the Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) with immediate effect.
(2) T H A T the existing CCTV condition remain unchanged.
(3) T H A T the following conditions requested to be amended by Trading Standards be confirmed as below:
(i) All staff working at the premises to be trained in the sale of alcohol. This training should be documented and available for inspection and the training programme must be agreed with Trading Standards and the South Wales Police. Each member of staff must also receive bi-annual refresher training.
(ii) All sales of alcohol are to be made by a Personal Licence Holder.
(iii) At least two members of staff are to be present on the shop floor during licensed hours.
(iv) In the absence of the DPS, written authorisation is to be given to staff to sell alcohol on his / her behalf. These records should be kept on the premises and be made available, to Trading Standards and South Wales Police on request.
(v) A robust system to be put in place to record the refusal of any sales of Age restricted products, the log must be audited by a member of management and the DPS on a monthly basis and that this should also be recorded.
(vi) The premises will implement a Challenge 25 scheme and an age verification policy to be agreed with Trading Standards and South Wales Police. This policy to be published and promoted at the premises.
(vii) An electronic point of sale equipment with a till prompt facility be used at the premises at all times.
Reasons for decisions
The Sub Committee felt that following the Review on 25th June 2009 the management had done little to promote the Prevention of Children From Harm licensing objective and that it had therefore been necessary to review the conditions to ensure promotion of the objective.
It was obvious to the Sub Committee that there needed to be a change of attitude at the premises to ensure that another review was not called.
Although Members considered Revocation of the Licence, they felt that if the conditions imposed were adhered to and the management took a more proactive role in the running of the premises, this action should not be necessary.
The Sub Committee felt it necessary to remove Mrs. K. Gill as the Designated Premises Supervisor (DPS) as she had been in that position since the Review in 2009 and under her supervision there were many shortfalls in the management of the premises. Members noted the request from Mr. Williams, Solicitor for the Respondents, that the removal of the DPS should be deferred for economic reasons, but felt that the Respondents had had ample time to put provisions in place for her replacement since becoming aware of the concerns of the Responsible Authorities. The Respondents’ Solicitor accepted in the meeting that it would be necessary to replace Mrs. K. Gill as the DPS but questioned the timing of this.
The Members of the Sub Committee wished to draw attention to para 3.3 of the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s Statement of Licensing Policy which states “The licensing objectives are not served by tolerating non-compliance on the part of businesses that are struggling financially”.