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Agenda item

Viva La Pizza, 367 Holloway Road, N7 0RN - Premises licence review

Minutes:

The licensing officer reported that an additional statement from the licensing holder and an additional statement from the police had been circulated separately.

 

The police representative reported that on the 25 June three young women stopped off at the venue and staff invited themselves back to their flat nearby.  On the 26 June an ambulance was called by one of the women requiring medical assistance as one of the women had been seriously sexually assaulted by one of the staff members.  A police investigation ensured however, throughout this, the venue seriously undermined the police investigation and revocation was sought for the following key reasons:-

1)   The serious nature of the criminal offence. It is alleged that a member of staff seriously sexually assaulted a female customer. Staff members had drinks at the premises, went back to their flat and later that morning an ambulance was called to a serious sexual assault. One incident alone was sufficient to link the premises to crime and disorder.

2)   The obstruction of investigation by the premises relating to the identity of the suspect. This included active steps taken to obstruct the police by warning off the suspect.  The venue turned a blind eye and did nothing to prevent future crime and disorder. The police knew that staff, including the designated premises supervisor, had been in touch with the suspect.

3)   The owner initially stated he would end the tenancy, however, then decided to give consent to transfer the licence to a company owned by the current designated premises supervisor. His failure to oversee the premises and his active role in attempting to transfer this licence to the same designated premises supervisor showed it was necessary to revoke the licence.

4)   Where crime was involved revocation could be considered as a deterrent, and this was a valid basis to revoke the licence. 

In summary, the premises did not co-operate with the authorities contrary to the licensing objectives and assisted with serious crime leading to a risk of further serious crime which would be addressed with revocation of the licence.

 

The Licensing Authority stated that this was a very serious incident and the licence holder had taken no responsibility.  Islington premises should be committed to promoting the safety of women and vulnerable people. There had been no demonstration of good management. The premises were serving alcohol to intoxicated customers, obstructing the police and it was recommended that the licence should be revoked. The noise officer reported that there had been a pattern of bad management with a pattern of noise disturbance with complaints from neighbours.  He supported the revocation of the licence.

 

The licensee’s representative stated that it was disputed that the key person in the investigation was linked to the premises. This was denied and any link to the premises was tenuous. There had been no serious crime on the premises and if anything had happened it had been at the home address.  He had seen nothing to suggest that any staff had been charged with obstruction. if the police had considered that this was the case they would have taken action and little weight should be given to this. In reality, there had been no attempt to book an appointment to speak to staff but police had shown up at the premises in a heavy handed manner. He stated that to expect staff to neglect their customers was remarkable.  If the police had booked an appointment, staff would have been happy to comply.  He had seen nothing regarding a pattern of bad management about noise complaints set out in the papers. The issue about serving customers whilst intoxicated was only an allegation and not proven. This was a vague application. There was no over-riding duty to co-operate with the police where a crime occurred off the premises. The designated premises supervisor (DPS) denied suspect engagement and had stated that he was not a member of staff.  The man of interest had been in the premises that evening but had not worked at the premises.

 

He response to questions, the licensee’s representative stated that there were three men who had met three women.  One of whom misbehaved but he had no link to the premises or to the other two men.  There was a skeleton staff at the premises, one waitress and one chef, and it was difficult to answer whether it was more important to answer police questions or to serve customers. He was aware of a code of conduct for staff but did not know about which code of ethics was referred to.  It would be difficult to conduct police inquiries when there were only two members of staff present at the premises and he would have been more patient than the police when asking questions of the staff.

 

In summary, the police asked that the interim steps remain in place if the Sub-Committee revoked the licence. The Licensing Authority and the Noise Team agreed with the police.

 

The licensee’s representative stated that the person of interest by the police was nothing to do with the premises.  He was the one who met with the three females on the evening and not the DPS. There was no clear breaches of the licence or pattern of bad management.  It was disproportionate to suspend the licence for a one off incident, involving someone off the premises. The review application was scant. Not giving answers to the police was not a breach of the licence.  The incident happened off the premises. The DPS stated that nobody had called him. The women invited the men to their home and the police had his details.

 

RESOLVED

1)    That the licence in respect of Viva La Pizza, 367 Holloway Road, N7 0RN be revoked.

 

2)    That the interim steps of suspension to remain in place pending the final determination of any appeal.

 

REASONS FOR DECISION

The Sub-Committee listened to all the evidence and submissions and considered the material provided. The Sub-Committee reached the decision having given consideration to the Licensing Act 2003, as amended, and its regulations, the national guidance and the Council’s Licensing Policy.

 

The Sub-Committee considered Home Office Guidance, paragraph 9.12 which sets out that the police should usually be the licensing authority’s main source of advice on matters relating to the promotion of the crime and disorder licensing objective.  The Sub-Committee noted that the guidance sets out that it remains incumbent on all responsible authorities to ensure that their representations can withstand scrutiny.

 

The police summarised the reasons for bringing the review under three headings in respect of an incident that occurred on 25 June 2021:

1)   The serious nature of the criminal offence that occurred;

2)   Obstruction of a police investigation;

3)   The action of the premises licence holder in attempting to transfer the licence.

 

The Sub-Committee heard that on 25 June 2021 three women had been out drinking and stopped at the premises for food on the way home. They had more drinks and were talking to three members of staff who invited themselves back to the home of the women. The following morning an ambulance was called to the home of the women as one of the women had been seriously sexually assaulted. Police have been investigating the identification of the suspect which had been undermined by staff and management at the premises. The Sub-Committee heard that the police believed that staff at the premises had been in contact to warn the suspect of the police investigation.

 

The Sub-Committee heard from the licensing authority that Islington was committed to promoting the safety of women and vulnerable people and that the police evidence showed that standards of management at the property were woeful.  The Sub-Committee heard from the Noise Team that there had been a pattern of nuisance and poor management at the premises and that the Noise team was in favour of revocation.

 

The Sub-Committee heard from the Licence Holder’s representative that it was hotly disputed that the individual wanted by the police in connection with the incident was linked to the premises at all.  It was wholeheartedly denied that the individual was a member of staff.  Nothing is known about this man other than that he was at the premises on the night.  It was denied that anyone at the premises had been in contact with the suspect.  The alleged offence was not supposed to have happened at the premises; if there was a crime at all then it took place at the home of the complainant.  There was no evidence that anyone had been interviewed or charged with obstruction and it was a bone of contention that the premises were not co-operating or were actively obstructing the investigation.  The Sub-Committee heard from the Licence Holder’s representative that the police had attended at the premises heavy-handed while the restaurant was open.  The customer must come first and to expect staff to neglect customers was remarkable.  The premises management had asked the police to book a mutually convenient appointment to ask whatever questions they wished to ask of staff but this had not been done.  This was not obstruction.  The Licence Holder’s representative had not seen any evidence of a pattern of bad management causing nuisance over a period of time.  It was against natural justice for the premises to have to respond to so vague an application and there was no over-riding duty on the licence or in the policy requiring the Licence Holder to assist in any police investigation. 

 

The Licence Holder’s representative submitted that the individual of interest to the police was nothing to do with the premises and that there was nothing to justify revocation.  It would be disproportionate to suspend the licence let alone revoke it.  The police application was very scant.  The representative was not arguing that the premises management did not have to co-operate with the police, but that this was not a breach of the licence.

 

The Sub-Committee decided that it was proportionate and appropriate for the licence to be revoked.

 

The Sub-Committee considered the option of imposing additional conditions but concluded that there were no conditions that could have been applied that would have tackled the issues raised by the police in respect of the obstruction of their investigation.

 

The Sub-Committee also considered the option of suspension but concluded that in circumstances where the management of the premises did not accept that the incident had any connection to the premises and did not accept that they have failed to co-operate with the Police, a suspension would not have served to resolve the problems identified by the Police and would not be sufficient to promote the licensing objective of crime and disorder.

 

The Sub-Committee referred to paragraph 11.20 of the Home Office guidance and was satisfied that the appropriate and proportionate remedial action was for the licence to be revoked.  Whilst the Sub-Committee noted the submissions made on behalf of the licence holder, the Sub-Committee considered Home Office Guidance, paragraph 9.12 which sets out that the police should usually be the licensing authority’s main source of advice on matters relating to the promotion of the crime and disorder licensing objective and concluded, on the basis of the police evidence, that revocation was required to promote the licensing objectives. 

 

The Sub-Committee considered whether it was appropriate for the promotion of the licensing objectives for the interim steps to remain in place, or if they should be modified or withdrawn.  For the reasons as detailed above, the Sub-Committee decided that it was proportionate and appropriate for the suspension to remain in place until any appeal was finally determined.

 

 

Supporting documents: