Belfast Telegraph

Rehearing ordered in Mynt nightclub after-hours drinking case

A judge was wrong to clear a top Belfast nightclub's deputy manager of allowing after-hours drinking, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Jonathan Smylie is to face a rehearing following a finding that it does not have to be just the licence holder who can commit the alleged offence.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan held that the relevant law allows proceedings to be brought against others in charge of premises.

Mr Smylie had won a County Court appeal against a conviction for permitting the consumption of alcohol at Mynt nightclub outside licensed hours. He was the deputy manager and in charge when police arrived at the Dunbar Link premises at around 2.30am on December 20, 2009.

Around 100 people were inside, with staff still serving behind the bar, the court heard.

The club's liquor licence only permitted alcohol to be sold up to 1am, with another 30 minutes drinking-up time.

After caution Mr Smylie told police that it was only soft drinks up to 4.30am.

He said that any alcohol found would have “slipped through the net” after 1am.

Samples of customers' drinks were seized, forensically analysed and found to contain diluted spirits.

The County Court judge who upheld Mr Smylie's challenge to the conviction stated a case for the Court of Appeal to consider.

Judges were asked whether it was correct in law to hold that only a licence holder can commit the offence of permitting liquor to be consumed after hours.

But Sir Declan, sitting with Lord Justices Girvan and Morgan, held that the relevant section of the Licensing (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 contains a wider meaning.

The case will be remitted to a different County Court judge for rehearing.

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