In the nick of time, just days before new mandatory conditions were added to every on-licensed Premises Licence in England & Wales, both the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and Home Office have issued guidance on how the new conditions should be interpreted. Quite why it takes two Government departments to do this, we can only speculate. This decision becomes even more baffling when you realise that on occasions, the two sets of guidance actually contradict each other!
The three new mandatory conditions which are added from 6 April 2010 are applicable to all on-licensed premises from that date, regardless of whether the conditions are physically on the Premises Licence for the premises or not. Ignorance of them will therefore not be a defence.
The new mandatory conditions do not apply to Temporary Events Notices (as per the existing mandatory conditions). However, whilst we cannot envisage licensed premises applying for TENs to circumvent the need for a DPS, personal licence holders to authorise sales of alcohol or for door supervisors to be licensed, we can imagine licensed premises applying for a TEN to allow a controversial alcohol promotion to take place at the premises. Of course, were they to do so, we fully expect the Police to object to the TEN as undermining the crime objective, if the application made it clear why the TEN was being made. But if the application does not mention the promotion and nothing occurs at the premises which undermines the licensing objectives, then the Police are going to find it difficult to justify a review against those premises.
Would it not have been better simply to have made TENs subject to the new mandatory conditions? We certainly fail to see the difficulty in asking those organising TENs not to allow irresponsible promotions and games like the dentist’s chair and to make tap water freely available.
The DCMS updated guidance makes it clear that the new mandatory conditions override any existing conditions on a Premises Licence insofar as those existing conditions are identical to, or inconsistent with or less onerous than the new mandatory conditions. Of course, the way in which the new mandatory conditions impact on the pre-existing conditions will not be recorded in your Premises Licence, and whilst the guidance encourages Licensing Authorities to contact their Licensees to make them aware of the new conditions, we have yet to see any evidence this has happened. This is a recipe for confusion.