Under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 the police or local authority have the power to close premises quickly, including licensed premises, which are being used, or are likely to be used, to commit nuisance or disorder.
Moreover, if there is a risk of recurrence, the court has the power to grant an order closing down your licensed premises for a period of up to 6 months.
The impact on a business can be devastating. As a licence holder, it is important to understand how and when this power can be exercised, as well as the penalties for non-compliance.
The legal test for a closure notice
Under section 76 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 the police or local authority may issue a closure notice for up to 48 hours, if they are satisfied on reasonable grounds that:
the use of the premises has resulted in nuisance to members of the public, or
there has been disorder in the vicinity of those premises associated with their use, and
the notice is necessary to prevent the nuisance or disorder from continuing, recurring or occurring.
A closure notice can exclude all persons from the premises at all times, except for any exceptions stated in the notice, although it cannot prohibit access by either the owner of the premises or anyone who habitually lives there.
As a resident licensee you would need to be given access, although this wouldn’t give you permission to re-open.
Once a closure notice is issued, the police or local authority, or anyone acting on their behalf, would have a power of entry, using reasonable force if necessary, to serve the notice.
The legal test for a closure order
Unless the police or local authority cancelled the closure notice within the 48-hour period because it was no longer deemed necessary, they would be required under the 2014 Act apply to the magistrates’ court for a closure order. This application would be heard not later than 48 hours after service of the notice.
Under section 80 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 the court may initially grant a closure order for up to 3 months, if it is satisfied that:
- a person has engaged in disorderly, offensive or criminal behaviour on the premises, or
- the use of the premises has resulted in serious nuisance to members of the public, or
- there has been disorder in the vicinity of those premises associated with their use, and
- the notice is necessary to prevent the behaviour, nuisance or disorder from continuing, recurring or occurring.
A closure order can prohibit anyone from entering the premises for the duration of the order. This would include you, as either the licence holder or resident licensee. The court would also notify the licensing authority of its decision, which could lead to a potential revocation or suspension of your premises licence.
Further, under section 82 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, on application by the police or local authority, the court has the power to extend a closure order for a further 3 months.
Temporary order or adjourned hearing
For the court to grant a closure order, the legal threshold is higher than that required for the police or local authority to issue a closure notice. The court must be satisfied that there is evidence of criminality, serious nuisance or disorder.
Nevertheless, under section 81 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the court may temporarily extend a closure notice for a further period of up to 48 hours, so long as there is sufficient evidence of nuisance and disorder that meets the lower threshold.
Alternatively, the court can adjourn a hearing for up to 14 days to enable the occupier of the premises, persons with control or responsibility of the premises or any interest in the premises, to show why a closure order should not be made. In these circumstances, the closure notice would normally remain in force until the adjourned hearing.
Discharging or appealing a closure order
Once a closure order is made, it would be open to you under section 84 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to appeal to the Crown Court against a decision to make or extend a closure order. An appeal must be made within 21 days beginning with the date of the decision to which it relates.
It would also be open to you under section 83 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 to make an application to the magistrates’ court for a closure order to be discharged.
However, the court will not discharge an order unless satisfied that it is no longer necessary to prevent the occurrence, recurrence or continuance of the serious nuisance, disorder or other conduct upon which the order was granted.
Compensation relating to a closure order
In the event that you suffered financial loss in consequence of a closure notice or closure order, under section 90 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 you would be able to apply to the court for compensation.
However, the court may only order the payment of compensation out of central funds if it is satisfied that:
- you were not associated with the use of the premises, or the behaviour on the premises, on the basis of which the closure notice was issued or the closure order made, or
- as the owner or occupier of the premises, you took reasonable steps to prevent that use or behaviour.
The court must also be satisfied that in all the circumstances it would be appropriate to order payment of compensation in respect of any financial loss.
An application for compensation would need to be made within 3 months of the day on which the closure notice was cancelled, refused or ceased to have effect.
Penalties for non-compliance
Once a closure notice or closure order is made, any failure to comply with its terms will potentially constitute a criminal offence.
In particular, under section 86 of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 a person who, without reasonable excuse, remains on or enters the premises in contravention of a notice or order commits an offence.
If proven, a breach is punishable in the following ways:
- Breach of a closure notice or temporary order – up to 3 months in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
- Breach of a closure order – up to 51 weeks in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
It is also an offence to obstruct a person acting under section 79 or 85(1) of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 without reasonable excuse. This refers to the right of the police or local authority, or someone acting on their behalf, to serve a closure or other type of notice, or to enter and/or secure the premises.
Avoiding closure notices and orders
The closure power under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 is a fast, flexible power that can be used by the police and local authority to protect victims and communities by quickly closing licensed premises that are causing nuisance or disorder.
It is therefore essential that you take all reasonable steps to minimise any risk of anti-social behaviour that may arise from customers using or in the vicinity of your licensed premises.
It is also important to maintain good communication and relationships with both the police and the local authority, so as to demonstrate your commitment to responsible licensing.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.