In accordance with Section 51 of the Licensing Act 2003, the Council has received an application from Kent Police, as a responsible authority, for a review of the existing premises licence in respect of Sunny News 9 Skinner Street Gillingham Kent ME7 1HD.
The Licensing Officer advised the Panel that, in accordance with Section 51 of the Licensing Act 2003, the Council had received an application for review from Kent Police as a responsible authority in respect of the existing Premises Licence for Sunny News, 9 Skinner Street, Gillingham, Kent ME7 1HD.
The grounds for the review (as detailed in the review application on page 17 of the main agenda) related to one of the four licensing objectives:
• The prevention of crime and disorder
The application had been correctly advertised for the required timescale by placing notices at the premises, Council contact points and on the Council’s website in accordance with regulations made under the Licensing Act 2003. Also in accordance with the legislation, notice of the application (and the application itself) was served on the relevant parties for the licensed premises along with the other responsible authorities.
The following documents were included in the main agenda for the Panel’s consideration: -
• Appendix A – pages 9 – 12: A copy of the current premises licence.
• Appendix B – page 13: A copy of a plan showing the location of the premises
• Appendix C – pages 14 – 19: A copy of the Application for Review
A supplementary agenda containing further information provided by the licensee’s representative was circulated prior to the commencement of the hearing. As this included some exempt financial information, the Chairman asked the Licensee’s representative if this would be referred to in detail as this would require the Panel to consider excluding the press and public from that part of the meeting. The Licensee’s representative confirmed that he would only make passing reference to this information.
The Panel’s attention was drawn to the grounds for the review in relation to the licensing objectives of the Licensing Act 2003 and also to paragraph 3 of the committee report - Advice and analysis on determination of review application.
A representative of Kent Police spoke in support of their application for a review and referred to a visit to the premises undertaken by officers of Kent Police, Medway Council and HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) on 29 July 2015. During the visit HMRC officers had discovered a basement area, accessible via a hatch that was covered by a carpet, in which 20 cases of Italian wine were found. Together with 39 bottles on the shop shelves, this wine was seized as officers were suspicious that no duty had been paid on it. The Licensee had advised the officers that the price of the wine was £5 for two bottles.
The Police had not subsequently received any paperwork from the Licensee to show that these items had been purchased correctly and could not identify them in the invoices included in the supplementary agenda.
The Licensee’s representative asked the Police representative for her views on the suggested conditions that he had proposed be attached to the licence (as detailed in the supplementary agenda). In response, the Police representative supported proposed condition 2 regarding the maintenance of invoices for alcohol purchases for 12 months, for inspection at the licenced premises.
The Licensee’s representative then put forward his response to the review application. He explained that the basement was a storage area and the carpet was to prevent the protruding hinges to the hatch door from being a trip hazard. The wine in question had been purchased several years ago from a cash and carry, the receipts for which could not be found. It was being offered for sale at a discount price as wine sales had not proved as popular with customers as the Licensee had hoped. The premises had not previously been the subject of a licence review, no prosecution was pending and the Licensee had not been interviewed under caution. The Licensee had undertaken a stock take to check for non-duty paid products.
The Police representative questioned the Licensee and his representative to establish the cash and carry from which the wine had been purchased. The applicant explained that he could not remember the name but recalled that it had been located in Barking. He confirmed that he was aware of mandatory condition 3 on the premises licence regarding the permitted price of alcohol. He also confirmed that he had asked his accountant if they had copies of the invoices for the seized wine but they had not.
The Panel also questioned the Licensee and his representative regarding the cash and carry in Barking and the missing invoices. They confirmed that they had not investigated whether the cash and carry had retained copies of the invoices. The Licensee explained that, during a visit to another cash and carry in the area, he had heard that the Barking cash and carry was offering a discount on wine. He had not bought any other items from this supplier.
The Chairman asked both parties to sum up and the Police representative reiterated the Police’s concerns about the legitimacy of the seized wine and the premises. The Licensee’s representative maintained that the purchase had been legitimate and that receipts could sometimes go missing. He summarised the options available to the Panel and said that any action taken should be appropriate and proportionate.
The Panel had considered the evidence and submissions from the representative of Kent Police and from the Licensee and his representative and had sought to identify a proportionate response.
The Panel determined that it was appropriate to suspend the Premises Licence for Sunny News, 9 Skinner Street, Gillingham, Kent ME7 1HD for a period of one month from the date of notification. This would provide the business with an opportunity for a fresh start.
The Panel further determined that the following condition, as proposed by the Licensee’s representative, be attached to the Premises Licence:
Upon receipt, invoices for alcohol shall be maintained for inspection at the licenced premises, unless removed for the purpose of reproduction, for a period of 12 months from the date marked on the invoice.