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District Judge in Magistrates’ Court rules on lawfulness of remote licensing hearings Published Date: 18/04/2023

A District Judge has dismissed a challenge by a south London nightclub to the use of a remote hearing procedure by the London Borough of Lewisham to revoke its premises licence.

Cornerstone Barristers reported that District Judge Abdel Sayed, sitting at Bromley Magistrates’ Court, agreed with Lewisham that remote hearings are permitted under the relevant legislation:

  • Neither the Licensing Act 2003, nor the Licensing Act (Hearings) Regulations 2005 require hearings to be held in a physical “place”. In principle, a “place” for the purposes of the Hearings Regulations can include a “virtual platform” and “attendance” at such a hearing can include “electronic attendance”. [22]
  • Section 9(3) of the Licensing Act 2003 allows licensing committees – subject to the basic procedural framework in the Hearings Regulations – to regulate their own procedure. Whether a hearing is conducted in person, or remotely, is “a matter of procedure” and therefore something the licensing committee may opt for in its discretion. [23]-[24]
  • The ruling in R (Hertfordshire County Council) v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government [2021] EWHC 1093 (Admin) applied only to ordinary meetings of local authorities; it did not apply to hearings conducted under the Licensing Act 2003. [14]-[19]
  • The fact that the Welsh Senedd had expressly legislated for remote hearings in Wales simply clarified any “ambiguity” in the Licensing Act 2003 and Hearings Regulations about whether remote hearings were lawful. It did not follow from the Welsh legislation that the legislation applying in England prohibited remote hearings. [21]

As a Magistrates’ Court ruling, it is persuasive not binding.