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Licensing Act 2003 and Children

Introduction to the Licensing Act 2003 and Children

In April 2012 the Government sent out a strong message to the licensed trade that it will not tolerate the sale of alcohol to children by doubling the fine for persistent underage sales.

The Licensing Act 2003 imposes severe penalties for breaches of the act regarding children and has put certain enforcement activities available to the authorities on a legal footing: 

  • The maximum fine for persistently selling or supplying alcohol to children is £20,000.  
  • A personal licence can be suspend or forfeited at first offence. 
  • Test purchasing is now on a statutory footing with guidance issued to the relevant authorities and courts on the steps to be taken and penalties to be imposed on those failing to meet their obligations.

It is an offence under the Licensing Act 2003 to allow any person under 16 to be present in licensed premises exclusively or primarily used for the sale of alcohol unless accompanied by an adult. It is an offence to allow any person under 16 to be present on licensed premises which are open for the supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises between the hours of midnight and 5:00am when unaccompanied by an adult.

These provisions also apply to temporary events where the supply of alcohol is the exclusive or primary activity at the event.

Furthermore, it is an offence to sell alcohol to people under 18 anywhere in England and Wales. The vast array of exceptions and exemptions that existed under the old licensing regime being swept away by the 2003 act.

For example, under the old regime it was not an offence to supply alcohol to children in non-profit making members clubs such as Labour, Liberal, Conservative, ex-services, sports, social and working men's clubs. Under the Licensing Act 2003 this is now a serious offence.

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Children - Licensing Act offences

The offences relating to children of particular significance.

The previous licensing laws contained some inadequacies that may not have afforded the protection to children from harm that may be considered necessary in our modern society. The Licensing Act inserts this protection as a corner stone of the licensing regime. Some of the new offences it creates are:   

  • It is an offence for certain persons to allow children under 16 on relevant premises (which means premises to which a premises licence or a club premises certificate has been granted; or a permitted temporary event notice has been given) that are used exclusively or primarily for the supply of alcohol, or premises open for such supply under the authorisation of a temporary event notice, if they are not accompanied by an adult and those premises are open for the supply of alcohol for consumption there.
  • It is an offence for any person to allow an unaccompanied child under 16 to be on relevant premises (see above) between the hours of midnight and 5:00am when the premises are open for the supply of alcohol for consumption there.
  • It is an offence for any person to supply alcohol to children anywhere, not just on licensed premises.
  • It is an offence for a child to buy or attempt to buy alcohol.
  • It is an offence for a child knowingly to consume alcohol on relevant premises.

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The protection of children from harm

The protection of children from harm is one of the four licensing objectives that underpin the Licensing Act 2003 and remains a significant priority of the Act.

The Licensing regime has been designed, in part, to close the loopholes and inadequacies of previous law in relation to children, while allowing under 18s to experience the atmosphere of licensed premises in a family friendly, safe environment. The Act requires that all applicants applying for new premises licences and club premises certificates, or licence holders that are seeking variations to existing licences set out in their operating schedule the steps they propose to take to promote the licensing objectives, including the protection of children from harm.

The Licensing Authorities, Adur District Council & Worthing Borough Council, have the power to attach conditions relating to children's access to reflect the individual nature of each establishment if relevant representations are received and they are considered necessary to protect children from harm. Where there is no risk of harm, there need be no conditions applied. Where there is a genuine danger, for example through underage drinking, drug dealing or entertainment of an adult nature, following representations, steps can be taken. The Licensing Authority, having first considered any relevant representations from responsible authorities or the public, can impose necessary conditions on the licence or certificate to provide the fullest possible safeguards for the protection of children.

In addition to the licensing objective on children, the laws relating to the sale to and consumption of alcohol by minors have been strengthened and updated to offer increased protection for children.

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