In its final report on a widespread review of law enforcement powers in the UK, the Home Office concluded that all powers of entry granted under the Licensing Act should be retained, claiming they are ‘important tools in safeguarding the public and enforcing licensing regulations’.
“We consulted on potential amendments to these powers and gave careful consideration to achieve the right balance between providing sufficient safeguards and the need to protect the public and enforce the law,” said the report.
“The consensus that emerged from this consultation was that any change to these powers would undermine enforcement activity. We have therefore decided to maintain the existing powers as they stand.”
Powers of entry
Under the Licensing Act, a police officer can enter and search any licensed premises where they believe an offence under the Act ‘has been, is being, or is about to be committed’, using ‘reasonable force’ if necessary.
Police officers can also enter and search a club if they believe ‘certain offences in respect of controlled drugs’ have been, are being or are about to be committed, or if they believe there is likely to be a breach of the peace at the premises.
The legislation also enables both police and licensing authorities to enter and inspect a premises before granting a license, to establish the likely impact of a Temporary Event Notice and to establish whether the premises is being used for a licensable activity.
Home Office review
The Home Office reviewed a total of 99 powers of entry related to various law enforcement categories including drugs, policing, organised crime, border protection and terrorism as well as licensing.
The review was ordered under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012, which required all government departments to examine their powers and consider whether they were still necessary, proportionate and contained sufficient safeguards.
The Government is holding a separate consultation on the proposed Code of Practice for Powers of Entry, which would require licensed authorities to premises at least 48 hours’ notice before a visit.
The Government told BigHospitality’s sister title Publican's Morning Advertiser that the Code of Practice would come into force this year, but there has been no implementation date set so far.