‘Sales to drunks’ law needs review, says report - Palmers Solicitors

‘Sales to drunks’ law needs review, says report

A new report has called for a full review of existing legislation designed to prevent sales of alcohol to drunk customers.

The call came in One Too Many?, a report published on 10 November by alcohol harm reduction organisations Alcohol Research UK and the Alcohol Academy.

The Licensing Act 2003 makes it illegal to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk, or even to try and buy it on their behalf. Offenders can be fined up to £1,000, but prosecutions are very rare.

The report says that with no legal definition of drunkenness, important questions such as when a refusal to serve should be made are apparent.

It adds: “The current legislation states a server must ‘knowingly’ sell alcohol to someone who is drunk to commit an offence, and proving they knew this may be a significant barrier to enforcement.

“At the same time, staff need some degree of protection and are often working in environments with many counter-pressures to serve.”

As well as calling for the review of legislation, the report’s recommendations include:

  • consideration of a requirement for premises to have a written policy ensuring adherence to the law
  • developing a national campaign to raise awareness of the law among licensees, customers and bar staff
  • reviewing the use of on-the-spot fines for premises or staff found to be breaching the law.

Whether or not the report results in a review of licensing legislation, owners and managers of licensed premises need to be fully aware of their legal responsibilities to protect their licenses and the reputations of their businesses.

Palmers offers expertise in all aspects of licensing relating to liquor, entertainment and late night refreshment and can also advise on regulatory prosecutions and on criminal cases ancillary to licensing, and regulatory crime. For more information, please contact Jeremy Sirrell.