A bill to tighten up on public safety aspects of Scottish licensing law across a range of areas, and introduce licensing of air weapons for the first time, has been introduced to Holyrood by the Scottish Government.
The Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Bill includes provisions covering alcohol and civic govenment licensing as it applies to taxis and private hire cars, metal dealers, public entertainment venues and sexual entertainment venues.
The clauses relating to lap dance venues can be seen hereAIR WEAPONS AND LICENSING SEV clauses. They are closely modelled on those in the England & Wales 2009 Policing and Crime Act, though there are some important differences in terms of the number of times entertainment can be provided per year without need for a licence (3 rather than 11) and also in the ways unsuitable localities are defined (i.e. in England and Wales ‘Local authorities COULD also use a licensing policy to indicate how many sex establishments, or sex establishments of a particular kind, they consider to be appropriate for a particular locality’ but in Scotland ‘a local authority MUST from time to time determine the appropriate number of sexual entertainment venues for their area and for each relevant locality, and publicise the determination in such manner as they consider appropriate’. More subtle differences relate to the definition of nudity are also apparent (e.g. in the case of a woman, the showing of (TO ANY EXTENT AND BY ANY MEANS) her nipples, pubic area, genitals or anus’).
This adoptive legislative is being presented in Bill form: further details of the consultation responses which have resulted in these clauses will follow in due course.
This case involved Platinum Lounge, a club operating in Chester since 2005. In 2013, its renewal of SEV licence was refused (see https://sevlicensing.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/chesters-platinum-lounge-refused-renewal-of-licence/) despite having succeeded in obtaining a licence in 2012. It stayed open pending this judicial review, which was made on the basis of: the Failure of the Committee to follow their own policy; Failure to consider making an exception to policy in the individual circumstances of the case; Failure to give reasons (for refusal); Failure to have regard to the importance of consistency and failure to give proper reasons for departing from the decision of the previous Committee; and failure to consider Bridgerow’s (the applicant’s) human rights.
As has been widely noted, the appeal was won, meaning the club can remain open pending a new application for a licence. Mr Justice Stuart-Smith overturned the committee’s decision on the sole ground it was taken in breach of the council’s constitution stating it was clear the decision should have been taken by a three-member sub-committee, rather than the full committee of 15. Upholding Bridgerow’s Judicial Review challenge, he said: “It is clear beyond argument that the constitution said and meant that Bridgerow’s renewal application should have been decided by a panel of three members, drawn from the full committee on a politically proportionate basis. Equally clearly, that is not what happened…The decision of September 17, 2013 must be quashed because of the serious procedural irregularity which led to it being taken by the wrong persons.”
But what is also apparent is that the ruling confirms – following previous cases – that licensing committees are empowered to take a ‘fresh look’ at the nature of the locality at point of renewal, and reach different conclusions about the suitability of the locality than in a previous licensing hearing. As stated in the decision, “there were two matters which affected the minds of the committee and led them to their conclusion in the knowledge that they were differing from that of the previous committee:..The first was their assessment of the area: while being predominantly commercial it was regarded by the 2013 committee as being mixed in a way which gave greater prominence to the residential accommodation than had been accorded to it in 2012…it is plain that the committee recognised that it was or might be taking a different view of the balance of the area and that it was doing so having looked at the information provided to them. The second was their conclusion that the location of the premises in that area had an impact on the character of the locality. Taken together, these were sufficient reason to refuse to renew.”
Further analysis here: http://www.popall.co.uk/news/general/lapdancingbarplatinumloungewinsjudicialreview.asp
See also: http://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=18301%3Ajudge-quashes-licensing-decision-after-qserious-procedural-irregularityq&catid=61&Itemid=29