|Members gave consideration to determine what action to take in relation to an application for a review of a premise licence which had been made at the request of Cleveland Police relating to 'The Funky Lime', 96 High Street, Stockton on Tees. |
The Chair introduced all persons who were present and explained the procedure to be followed during the hearing.
A copy of the report and supporting documents and statements had been provided, where relevant, to all persons present and to Members of the Committee. Members noted that the review of the premises licence was made at the request of Cleveland Police who had submitted their own representation. There were no additional representations made.
Mr Langley, on behalf of Cleveland Police, explained that discussions had taken place prior to the meeting between the Respondent and Mr Briggs and that the Respondent had consented to the transfer the Premise Licence to Cable Properties & Investments Ltd with immediate effect. The Committee were advised that the Respondent had signed the Consent Form, and on this basis, the Police had no objection to the transfer on completion of the paperwork. The Committee were, therefore, satisfied that pursuant to section 43 of The Licensing Act 2003, the transfer application could be given interim effect subject to the completion of the full application.
Mr Langley explained that the outstanding issue for the Committee was the Respondent's position as the Designated Premise Supervisor (DPS). Mr Langley submitted that the Committee ought to hear the evidence presented in respect of this in light of the seriousness of the incidents which promoted the application for a review. The Committee carefully considered these representations and resolved to hear the evidence in respect of the DPS issue.
Mr Langley, on behalf of Cleveland Police, stated that the application for a review of the premises licence was prompted following a series of incidents reported since March 2013 at the premise known as The Funky Lime, 96 High Street, Stockton on Tees, (the Premise').
The Committee were informed that Cleveland Police had worked with the Respondent and her then partner, Mr Hobbs, over this period in an attempt to prevent the undermining of the licensing objectives. An Action Plan was put in place in an attempt to address the Police's concerns about the management of the premise. Whilst this had the desired effect in the short term, the situation deteriorated resulting in the Respondent being banned from licensed premises under the Stockton Pub Watch Scheme.
PC Johnson was called to give witness evidence on behalf of the Police in relation to the more serious incidents, which had been reported regarding the overall management of the premise. Members noted that, until an incident which had taken place on 01 February 2014, Mr Hobbs was employed by the Respondent as the Manager at the premise. Following the incident, the Respondent demoted him to resident DJ. However, the association between the Respondent and Mr Hobbs, whether as friends or otherwise, continued throughout this.
PC Johnson detailed a number of issues including:-
24 December 2013 - Police Officers had been called to the premise in relation to an incident. On entering the premise, the Respondent explained to Police Officers that she had had a verbal argument with her then partner, Mr Hobbs. Mr Hobbs was drinking alcohol behind the bar when the Police arrived and insisted that it was nothing to do' with the Police. The Police however felt the incident serious enough to caution and arrest Mr Hobbs, however, as the Respondent and Mr Hobbs denied an incident had taken place and the fact there were no independent witnesses and no CCTV footage, no further action could be taken.
17 and 20 January 2014 - PC Johnson described an incident where Mr Hobbs had assaulted a male in the Premise on 17 January 2014. The allegations also detailed that during the scuffle the male's wife had sustained a broken leg. At the identity parade which later took place, Mr Hobbs was identified by the male but not his wife so no further action could be taken in respect of his wife's injury. The male later informed the Police that he did not wish to pursue his complaint and refused to co-operate with the Police. Although the police were unable to take any further action in respect of this matter, the Committee were referred to a copy of an email from the PC who attended at the incident on 18 January 2014. Mr Hobbs was described as being very aggressive and coming close to being arrested. It was also recorded that the Respondent did not "co-operate with the police".
01 February 2014 - Having received a report from members of the public regarding an incident inside the premise, Police Officers responded. Upon arrival, Mr Hobbs was observed picking up chairs and smashing them down on the floor. The whole area was "littered with bits of wood and broken glass" and "there were a number of smashed chairs and tables on the floor along with smashed drinks glasses". Mr Hobbs became very aggressive, and the professional opinion of Police Officers was that Mr Hobbs was intoxicated. In response to this incident, the Respondent told police that he would not be working Fridays and Saturdays - she made no mention that Mr Hobbs would be demoted from manager to DJ.
15 February 2014 - The Committee observed CCTV footage showing a sequence of events on Stockton High Street involving Mr Hobbs. The Committee were particularly concerned about this incident as Mr Hobbs was employed as a DJ not a doorman. He had received no training as doorman, and when questioned where the door staff were, the Respondent stated: "I couldn't tell you where they were". This incident resulted in the Respondent being asked to enter into an agreed action plan. This was initially refused when PC Johnson attended the premise on 20 February 2014 because the Respondent disagreed with comments made about the supply of CCTV footage. The Respondent and Mr Hobbs did, however, subsequently sign it on 07 March 2014 having viewed the CCTV footage of the incident on 15 February 2014.
04 May 2014 - The Respondent reported an incident to Cleveland Police alleging that both she and Mr Hobbs were assaulted by a male and female on Stockton High Street. As a result, the male and female in question were put on Pub Watch and banned from licensed premises for 3 months. The Chair of Pub Watch subsequently contacted Cleveland Police with CCTV footage which was shown to Members during the meeting. The Respondent could be seen brawling' on the floor with the other female, and it was evident that the Respondent and Mr Hobbs had provoked the incident. The three month ban in respect of the male and female was immediately quashed by Pub Watch on viewing this footage.
10 June 2014 - The Committee heard an audio recording of a telephone message left by Mr Hobbs on the answer machine of The Swan Public House in Billingham relating to the premises, Goldies' on Stockton High Street. The Committee noted, however, that the Respondent had no apparent involvement in this other than the fact that Mr Hobbs is her friend and was purporting to speak as someone with an interest in the Respondent's premise.
15 August 2014 - The Respondent made inappropriate comments on Facebook about The Garrick Public House which had recently employed the services of a new door company. The Respondent's comments were provocative in nature. The comments were seen to encourage unsavoury characters to the establishment and implied that the Public Liability insurance was out of date. The comments were clearly accessible by the general public and were not considered responsible or appropriate comments by the holder of a Premise Licence/DPS
09 September 2014 - The actions of the Respondent and Mr Hobbs were considered so serious by members of Pubwatch that they unanimously voted to exclude The Funky Lime from membership of the group.
24 September 2014 - The owner of the door company supplying door staff to The Garrick reported receipt of an abusive voice message from Mr Hobbs making threats of a sexual nature in relation to his wife. Again, however, the Committee noted that the Respondent had no apparent involvement in this other than the fact that Mr Hobbs was her friend and was purporting to speak as someone with an interest in the Respondent's premise.
03 October 2014 - The Committee observed two recordings of CCTV footage. The first recording showed two members of staff from Goldies Public House, one of which was on stilts, walking along Stockton High Street handing flyers out. On approaching the Respondent's premise, the Respondent could be seen pushing the female not on stilts, and gesticulating at two males who had been talking to them. On the second recording, the Respondent and Mr Hobbs were observed acting in an intimidating manner towards a male stood outside Goldies Public House. The male in question was the owner of the door company who supplied door staff to this public house. Members observed the Respondent finger wagging' at the male. Mr Hobbs was then seen to approach him. Mr Hobbs was pushed away but then returned several times, staring in an intimidating manner. The Respondent and Mr Hobbs were issued separately with Harassment Notices in relation to their respective behaviour on 03 October 2014.
The Respondent was invited to ask questions of PC Johnson after each incident was described.
The Respondent dismissed the evidence generally as a pack of lies'. The most salient points of the Respondent's case were summarised below:
In relation to the incident on 24 December 2014, the Respondent was of the view that the argument between herself and Mr Hobbs was her fault and she did not make a complaint' to the police.
In relation to the incident on 17 January 2014, the Respondent disputed that the female in question had broken her leg, as she was dancing in Goldies' public house two hours later. The Respondent also implied that Mr Hobbs was acting in defence of her as the male in question had his hands around her throat and she believed he was attempting to take her life though she did not make a complaint to the police to this effect or at all.
In relation to the incident on 01 February 2014, Mr Hobbs, who was the Respondent's Manager at the time, admitted he had anger problems though he denied being intoxicated. Mr Hobbs did not believe that he had done anything wrong in terms of the damage to property as it was 'his' property. The Respondent accepted that this was not appropriate behaviour for a manager and informed the Committee that she had demoted him to the position of DJ following this incident.
In relation to the incident on 15 February 2014, the Respondent and Mr Hobbs claimed that the drunken male was the aggressor, and that Mr Hobbs' action in assaulting him - and apparently knocking him unconscious - was self-defence. Mr Hobbs informed Members that he believed the male had an object in the bag which caused him to fear for his safety. The Respondent also alleged that the male was very aggressive (although she did not witness the incident herself) and stated that Mr Hobbs believed that the bag he was carrying looked distinctly heavier after leaving Stephensons', the public house next door, and attempting to enter the Respondent's premise.
In relation to the threatening and abusive voice messages left by Mr Hobbs on 10 June 2014 and 24 September 2014, the Respondent was of the view that these had nothing to do with' her though the Police queried why Mr Hobbs had referred to her as his partner'.
In relation to the incident on 15 August 2014, the Respondent believed that her comments on Facebook were justified and she could not understand why they would be considered inappropriate for a premise Licence holder/DPS.
In relation to the CCTV recordings on 03 October 2014, the Respondent was of the view that she was provoked into pushing the member of staff from Goldies Public House as she had asked them not to fly' outside the premise due to the amount of litter. The Respondent also questioned the insurances held by Goldies in relation to the other member of staff on stilts, though this was considered irrelevant to the matter before the Committee. In response to the CCTV footage showing the Respondent and Mr Hobbs acting in intimidating way towards the owner of the door company, the Respondent and Mr Hobbs were unable to explain why they acted in the manner they did, other than the fact that the male had parked his car outside and they believed he had no business' being there.
Members had regard to the bundle of written evidence which had been circulated prior to the hearing and presented to them, in addition to the oral evidence given and submissions made at the hearing. The Committee also had regard to the statutory guidance issued under Section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003 and the Council's Licensing Policy.
The Committee were careful to distinguish the incidents in which the Respondent stated she had no control. In particular, the abusive and threatening voice messages left on 10 June 2014 and 24 September 2014.
After carefully considering the written and oral evidence in relation to the Respondent, the Committee expressed very real concerns about the Respondent's apparent failure to recognise how her actions could be considered responsible actions of a DPS. The Committee were also concerned about the Respondent's continued association with Mr Hobbs and her apparent failure to acknowledge how this undermined the licensing objectives. On balance, the Committee were satisfied that the incidents described were fundamentally linked to the overall control and management of the premise for which the Respondent was responsible as DPS. The Committee were also satisfied that the Police had made every effort to work with the Respondent to address the problems and ensure the promotion of the licensing objectives. However, the Committee unanimously felt that the fundamental cause of the problems at the premise was the involvement of the Respondent as the DPS. The Committee were in no doubt that, had the Premise Licence not been transferred, members would have revoked it based on the evidence presented.
The Committee, therefore, resolved that the most appropriate step in the circumstances was to remove the Respondent as the Designated Premise Supervisor in order to promote the licensing objectives pursuant to section 52(4)(c) of the Licensing Act 2003. This was deemed to be proportionate given the seriousness of the incidents at the premise, which included persistent and inappropriate behaviour by the Respondent
The Committee balanced their decision to remove the Respondent as the DPS against the potential financial/social impact on her. However, the evidence presented by the Police was so compelling that the Committee were satisfied that her removal as DPS was deemed to be a proportionate response.
After giving consideration to all of the evidence both written and oral in this matter, the Committee therefore resolved:-
To remove the Respondent as the Designated Premise Supervisor.