Introducing further regulations governing the licensed trade, Part 7 (Alcohol & Late Night Refreshment) of the Policing and Crime Act 2017 is expected to commence on 6 April 2017.

It will bring with it a number of significant changes for operators of licensed premises already operating the Licensing Act 2003.

The Home Office has highlighted that it hopes the Policing and Crime Act 2017 (the Act) will "ensure that the police and other law enforcement agencies have the powers they need to prevent, detect and investigate crime". In particular the provisions relating to Alcohol and Late Night Refreshment are intended to ensure that the licensing system is more effective and that licensing authorities are better equipped to regulate those who operate licensed premises.

Key Provisions for Operators

Update to the Definition of Alcohol

One key provision under the Act is the update to the definition of 'alcohol' under section 135. Crucially this has expanded on the definition in the Licensing Act 2003 by clarifying that alcohol includes liquor 'in any state'. The new definition therefore now includes alcohol in powdered or vaporised form.

Summary Review Process

Another area which has been dealt with under the Act is the summary review process which takes place in the event that serious crime or serious order occurs at a licensed premises. The Licensing Act 2003 sets out the summary review procedure and the Licensing Authority can take interim steps such as suspending the licence before the full review takes place. If a licence holder intends to object to these interim steps they are able to make representations to the Licensing Authority. Under the Licensing Act 2003, there were no limits on the number of representations which could be made.

In an attempt to clarify the procedure in this area the Act has provided that, following the initial representations, no further representations will be permitted unless "there has been a material change in circumstances since the Authority made its decision". Licensees must, therefore, now ensure that their representations are set out in full from the outset.

In addition the Act makes it clear that the Licensing Authority will now be required to set out at the full review hearing exactly which interim steps will continue to apply pending the outcome of any appeal. This goes some way to resolving uncertainty regarding the duration of the interim steps and licence holders should be aware that under the Act interim steps can continue to have effect in the period before an appeal.

Licensing Authority Powers

Under section 138 of the Act powers to suspend or revoke a personal licence will be extended to the Licensing Authority, alongside the courts. Whilst it is expected that the Licensing Authority are more likely to make use of these powers than is currently the case with the courts, personal licence holders should be aware that they will have the right of appeal against such decisions to the magistrate's court.

Summary

Whilst it is yet to be seen how some of these changes will work in practice it is clear that the Act leans towards increasing the effectiveness of the licensing system and licensees should perhaps expect a tougher approach to regulation.