Cleared Peebles bar manager calls for licensing act review following court case

A PEEBLES bar manager has spoken of his relief after being cleared of allowing two women to leave the premises with alcohol.

Cameron McMichael of The Keg is believed to have been the first person in the Borders to be taken to court for the offence under the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005.

And he has now called for a review of the legislation.

Mr McMichael was said to have allowed the two females to leave the High Street hostelry with alcohol on January 21, but following a trial at a Justice of the Peace Court held at Peebles Sheriff Court last Thursday, Mr McMichael was found not guilty.

The 24-year-old told TheSouthern: “It has been a hell of a year for me and my family and has been very costly. I have had to use lawyers who have been a great help but expensive.”

Mr McMichael argued one of the two women had not been in the pub on the night, while he had tried to stop the other from leaving while in possession of alcohol.

The 2005 act, which came into force in 2009 in an attempt to tackle Scotland’s problem with drink, includes a defence which applies to an accused who “took all reasonable precautions and exercised all due diligence not to commit the offence”.

The father-of-one told us: “I believe I am the first person in the Borders to go to court under section 63 (1) of the 2005 act. The act seems such a grey area.

“I think they need to amend some of the acts, and the public should be educated about changes to the law so everybody understands what is and is not allowed.”

Mr McMichael’s defence solicitor Douglas Neil added: “There seems to be a lack of clear guidance from the police and licensing authority. If there had been, these charges could have been avoided.”

The court decision follows an earlier appearance by Mr McMichael at Peebles Sheriff Court on June 13, when he was alleged to have committed an assault on December 14 last year, again at The Keg. Following a trial, he was also found not guilty.

The Keg’s premises manager, Roddy Mackay, added: “I think this has been handled terribly and it has not been nice for us to go through. This has been hanging over Cameron for a number of months. He is a law abiding, family man who didn’t need to be put through this misery.”

The Keg’s licence to sell alcohol was suspended for two weeks in April by a Scottish Borders Licensing Board meeting, after Inspector John Scott asked for a review under the 2005 act following “concerns regarding the management of premises”.

The decision was made in private, as, according to a Scottish Borders Council press release at the time, there were still outstanding criminal trials in relation to incidents alleged to have taken place in the pub.

The personal licences of Mr Mackay, chairman of Peebles Pub Watch Scheme, and Mr McMichael were also endorsed.

Asked about the criticism of the case being brought to court and the 2005 act, a Lothian and Borders Police spokesman said: “We submitted a report to the licensing board for its consideration. The decision thereafter is a matter solely for the licensing board and we cannot comment further.”

Scottish Borders Council, whose councillors make up the committee of the region’s licensing board, did not wish to comment.