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Tyrone hotel's booze-free teen disco breached licensing laws, court rules

Published 02/07/2015

A Co Tyrone hotel breached licensing laws by holding a teenage disco in its nightclub, the Court of Appeal ruled today.

Senior judges upheld a decision to convict Glenavon House Hotel director Brian Morris of allowing anyone under 18 on licensed premises during permitted hours.

Mr Morris was challenging a finding made against him at Dungannon Magistrates' Court.

The hotel in Cookstown had been running a monthly teenage disco in its Sense Nightclub since 1994.

Alcohol was neither being sold nor taken by children at the Club 13-17 events regularly attended by up to 1,000 youths.

But it was alleged that on dates in June and August 2013 Mr Morris allowed a person under the age of 18 to be in the licensed nightclub.

He was convicted of the offences under the Licensing (NI) Order 1996 following a contested hearing last year.

The court heard police inspections found no alcohol on display at the teenage discos.

Only soft drinks were being sold to well-behaved youths, with high levels of adult supervision.

The case was referred to the Court of Appeal for consideration of questions posed by the District Judge.

He wanted confirmation if he was correct in law to hold that the 1996 Order prohibits under 18s from attending alcohol-free functions on licensed premises.

Judges were also asked to consider if he had been entitled to find that the main purpose of Sense Nightclub was for the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor.

Unlike the monthly teen disco, the nightclub sells drink every Saturday night.

It can also be hired for weddings and other functions where alcohol is available.

Mr Justice Treacy, sitting with Lord Chief Justice Morgan and Lord Justice Gillen, backed the earlier findings.

He said one of the objectives of the 1996 Order is to safeguard children by restricting access to licensed premises underpinned by criminal sanction for breach. 

It prohibits minors from being in any part of licensed premises which contains a bar or is used exclusively or mainly for the sale of intoxicating liquor.

Claims that alcohol-free events for children are exempted were rejected.

Under licensing legislation in England and Wales an offence is only committed if an unaccompanied child under 16 is on the premises when they are open for the purpose of selling alcohol.

Mr Justice Treacy noted that in October 2005 the Department of Social Development published a consultation document which included a proposal to remove the general prohibition against young persons being present in licensed premises.

The court was told, however, that those proposals have not yet been taken forward by the Executive.

Dismissing the appeal, Mr Justice Treacy said: "The evidence establishes that the appellant put a considerable effort into ensuring that no alcohol is consumed at the event.

"That, however, does not provide an answer to the fact that under current law it is an offence for a person under 18 during the permitted hours to be on licensed premises used exclusively or mainly for the sale of alcohol." ends

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