The sergeant in charge of licensing has said there needs to be ‘more rigorous’ checks in place for licensing applications.
Alcohol Licensing Sergeant Kimble Enderby would like to see ‘fit and proper persons’ checks and a system of ‘one licence per person, per business’.
A Freedom of Information request by The Standard has found that out of 176 premises and alcohol licence applications made over the past 10 years, 170 have been approved.
Over the same period, there have been 24 licence reviews with half of those resulting in a licence being revoked.
A Boston Borough Council spokesman has also confirmed that as of April 1 this year there were 98 premises across the borough licenced for the sale of alcohol for consumption off the premises. This figure does not include pubs and restaurants.
Sgt Enderby told The Standard: ”The legislation is set up so if you apply to have a premises licence the default position is you will get it.
“There’s no quantity test for the area so if you had a street of 20 other off-licences and there’s no question about how you will run that business it will get passed.
“It is about the four licensing objectives and how you are going to promote these.
“The problem is it’s very hard to prove there will be a problem with new licences.
“It almost has to be accepted on face value with conditions.”
The licensing objectives that businesses must aim to comply with are: the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; and the protection of children from harm.
Sgt Enderby said that because licences were dealt with on an individual basis, you could have a person with three shops and even if they have a problem with one shop, they would still retain the other two.
He said it was ‘a shame’ that there was no fit and proper person test similar to in former legislation or the current legislation in Scotland.
He said the job could be very difficult for the licensing team and a lot of work went into reviews – including undercover test purchases.
He said he believed there needed to be more rigorous checks but admitted ‘we have to work within the legislation we have got’.
He said that the council’s hands were also tied by having to work with what the legislation allows and that the licensing committee cannot judge a person, but instead have to simply show that the licensing objectives are or are not being promoted.
He also said there was an increase in people who, when their licences were up for review, would suddenly ‘sell’ their premises to a close friend or relative, leaving them technically still in control.
In these instances he said police had to present ‘forensic quality’ evidence ‘good enough for crown court cases’ to Licensing Review Hearings to prove that this was the case.
“We very quickly find, lo and behold, this business has never been advertised for sale,” he said.
“The Licensing Act says we must take a stepped approach,” he added.
He said that in many cases, by the time they came to review, you are looking at months of work attempting to get the premises to get it right - meaning many licence holders can show they have fixed some problems.
Once evidence has been prepared, the licensing reviews also have to give 28 days to consult with the public.
“By the time we get to review, we find they have done their shop up,” added Sgt Enderby. “It comes to hearings and they present them as the best shop in the world.
“In the long-term you’ll find some come to the hearing and present themselves as everything’s changed and then in six months it will be back to how it was and we have to take it again.”
A Home Office spokesman has confirmed The Secretary of State is currently looking at the Licensing Act and how well it works.
The Government approved the scrutiny in May, and a report was put before the House of Lords in June. A report on the findings is expected in March 2017.
l What do you think? Should licensing rules be more stringent?
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Financial Year Applications Approved Rejected Reviews Licences Revoked
2006/2007 17 17 0 0 N/A
2007/2008 23 23 0 2 0
2008/2009 15 14 0 1 1
2009/2010 17 16 0 2 0
2010/2011 13 13 0 2 0
2011/2012 20 19 1 7 5
2012/2013 17 15 2 5 2
2013/2014 18 18 0 1 0
2014/2015 20 19 1 3 3
2015/2016 16 16 0 4 1