Lawyer’s dismay at public statements on client’s pub licence suspension

Janet Hood.peebles pub having licence suspended. (The Keg)
Janet Hood.peebles pub having licence suspended. (The Keg)

A TOWN centre pub in Peebles has been barred from selling alcohol for two weeks after having its premises licence suspended.

The decision to temporarily strip The Keg of its drinks licence was taken in private at a meeting of the Scottish Borders Licensing Board on Friday.

A review of the premises licence of the High Street hostelry had been requested by the police with Inspector John Scott presenting a report on 49 alleged incidents which officers had attended in and around the pub over the past two years.

But Janet Hood, the lawyer representing designated premises manager Roddy Mackay, whom she described as a “hugely respected figure in the licensed trade”, has hit out at the decision of Scottish Borders Council to issue a press release this week proclaiming the board’s decision and revealing that Mr Mackay and his bar manager Cameron McMichael had had their personal licences endorsed.

Mrs Hood told TheSouthern yesterday the question of whether an appeal would be pursued could not be addressed until she had been given formal notification of the reasons for the board’s decision.

At the conclusion of its public business in Newtown on Friday, the board approved a motion that consideration of The Keg item should be taken in private, its legal adviser citing a section of the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1973 which excluded the public “on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information...”

A Scottish Borders Council press release, issued on Tuesday, stated the hearing had been in private “as there are still outstanding criminal trials in relation to incidents alleged to have taken place in”.

Despite the public and press being excluded, the statement revealed the board had suspended The Keg’s alcohol licence on the casting vote of convener Councillor Gavin Logan and that Inspector Scott had reported about the “number and nature of incidents in and around this venue for the last two years”.

The statement, which went on to reveal the personal licence endorsements which could be subject to appeal, noted the premises had been before the board in 2010 for a failed test purchase in relation to someone under the age of 18 being sold alcohol and had been unsuccessful last year in a bid for a late weekend licence.

And in another statement yesterday, Inspector Scott said: “In this instance, there were concerns regarding the management of premises and these were presented to the board.

“Irresponsible drinking has a significant impact in the Scottish Borders and affects all our communities, with emergency services dealing with the aftermath of alcohol related incidents.”

Before going to press, Mrs Hood told us: “At no time during the hearing was there any allegation of inappropriate sales of alcohol on the premises.

“I am also disturbed that SBC’s communications team issued this press release on behalf of the board which has a duty to keep a public register of decisions and inform the premises licence holder [Mr Mackay] and the applicant for review [the police] of their decision.

She said her clients had made a request verbally on Friday and later in writing for the reasons behind the board’s decision.

“It is unfortunate the board has chosen to air its views in public before they have formally responded to that request.”

Mrs Hood said the SBC statement was “surprising” given that the board believed the hearing should be in private because matters referred to in the police application [for a review] were sub judice and that airing them in public could be prejudicial to any subsequent criminal proceedings.

Mr Mackay is chairman of the Peebles Pub Watch scheme which encourages licensees to report incidents in and around their premises to the police.

He is also vice-president of the Edinburgh, Lothians and Borders branch of The Scottish Licensed Trade Association.