Police Objections to a Personal Licence to Sell Alcohol


Eligibility for a personal licence presupposes that:

  • You are at least 18 years old;

  • You possess a an accredited licensing qualification;

  • You have not forfeited a licence within the preceding 5 years to the date of the application;

  • You do not have any unspent convictions for a relevant offence or a comparable foreign offence.

An application for a personal licence must be rejected if the applicant is less than 18 years old, he does not possess an accredited licensing qualification, or he has forfeited a licence within the preceding 5 years. However, with respect to unspent convictions for offences within the United Kingdom, or comparable foreign offences, the law provides for a notice to be provided to the local Chief Constable, which provides information about the unspent conviction.

The police within 14 days must then object to the grant of the licence if they are satisfied that the grant would undermine the licensing objective of the prevention of crime, having regard to the particular conviction. The objection notice must contain the reasons for the objection. If there is no objection within the 14 – day period, or any objection is withdrawn, the personal licence must be granted.

In any other case the Licensing Authority holds a hearing to consider the objection notice (unless the applicant, the police and authority agree that a hearing is unnecessary). At the hearing the Licensing Authority must reject the application for a personal licence if it considers it appropriate for the promotion of the crime prevention objective to do so, and grant the application in any other case.

As to the scope of the test that is applicable (‘reject the application … if it considers it appropriate ….’), in R (on the application of South Northamptonshire Council) v. Towcester Magistrates Court [2008] EWHC 381 (Admin), [2008] All ER (D) 76 (Feb) the Administrative Court when granting an application for judicial review found that the Magistrates’ Court had either failed to apply the statutory test as to whether to reject the application, or else it applied an unnecessary gloss on the test when it made extensive reference to the Secretary of State’s guidance as to how the test should be applied.

The applicant had two convictions for driving with excess alcohol (committed within 11 months of each other), for which he had been disqualified for first 2 years and then 3 years. The police objected that granting the licence would undermine the licensing objective of the prevention of crime, and given the history of the applicant they argued that he was unfit to make judgments about the supply of alcohol.

The licensing authority granted the licence notwithstanding police objections, finding that there was no unacceptable risk of non-compliance with the law, hence that the licensing objective would not be undermined. Towcester Magistrates’ Court allowed the police’s appeal, making reference in their reasons to the then Home Office guidance, which expressed the view that where there is a police objection normally a licensing authority should reject an application unless there are exceptional and compelling circumstances to justify granting it.

The current Home Office guidance has now changed and specifically states that it might be legitimate for licensing authorities to grant licences where there is substantial evidence that granting a personal licence to an ex – offender would not undermine the licensing objective of the prevention of crime (para 4.10). View a copy of the 2013 Home Office Guidance.

If you would like assistance in relation to police objections, please contact the licensing team. Call us in strict confidence and without obligation to see how we can assist you, on: 08454 903 567