Appeals

 

If you are dissatisfied with the decision of the licensing authority you can appeal to the Magistrates Court whose decision is final. Appeals can only be made by parties to the original licensing authority decision. In other words you must have made a representation about the original application.

You must do so within 21 days of being notified of the decision by the licensing authority to the magistrates court in the petty sessions area covered by the licensing authority. You may need to get details of which court it should be from you local magistrates court. Or try www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/HMCSCourtFinder/.

 

But do not rush off to write to the court and file an appeal until you have taken proper advice. The magistrates court has the discretion to award costs against you if you lose. That is the costs of the licensing authority and possibly the licence holder. Together those will come to at least hundreds and may be thousands of pounds. So appeals are not to be entered into lightly. However, magistrates are less likely to award costs against you if it is clear that you have acted in good faith and felt you had good reason to mount the appeal.

 

You should take as much advice as possible before starting an appeal as to whether there are reasonable grounds on which to appeal. Although an appeal is a rehearing of the case it is not enough that you simply disagree with the licensing authority's decision and hope that the magistrates will make another one. The magistrates are bound by case law to 'stand in the shoes of the licensing authority' and can only make a decision that could have been made by a licensing authority. They will also have to have regard for the Ministerial Guidance and the local licensing policy statement.

 

If you think that the decision was not made in accordance with the proper procedures, local policies or Ministerial Guidance or if you have some new evidence, or something important has happened since the decision then take advice first. Don't assume you have a good case until you have received specialist advice.

 

If you appeal you will be the 'plaintiff'. The licensing authority will defend each of its decisions so it will be the 'respondent' but it may join with it the person(s) who hold the relevant licence that is in dispute. They may both be separately represented by lawyers who are likely to wish to cross-examine you on the merits of your case.

 

The court is deciding on an administrative matter so the strict rules of evidence do not apply, you can call witnesses in support of your case and hearsay evidence can be used. Whatever decision the court reached it will give reasons for its decision in writing.

 

Alternatively, if you feel that there has been some mal administration in the way the licensing authority went about the case it is possible that for a period of up 12 months after the licensing decision you could apply to the local government ombudsman to re-examine the case. But he or she cannot change the decision but may be able to find out the details of how the case was dealt with and highlight anything that went wrong. This may result in an apology from the council or even compensation if the case is found in your favour. Check with the local government ombudsman service giving them brief details of the points you want to raise and they can advise you. www.lgo.org.uk

Licensing Act - 2003