Frequently Asked Questions

This set of Frequently Asked Questions does not deal with bans or appeals information for people subject to a ban.

Many of the calls we receive from pubwatches are of a repetitive nature with some standard replies.  If you are from or involved in a pubwatch check that the question you need help on is not already shown as a Frequently Asked Question.  If it is, the answer should help you solve your concern, if for any reason it does not or your query is not covered contact your local representative or phone one of the contact numbers shown on the contacts page.

Does our Pubwatch need Indemnity Insurance?

It is not essential but we recommend that all watches consider taking out insurance to cover the activities of the scheme. We are aware of a small number of cases where claimants have taken action against Pubwatch schemes through the courts and even though they have been unsuccessful such cases can prove very expensive for the watch and individuals involved. Some Police forces may insist that you have indemnity insurance before they agree to share photographs with the Watch. For information on some of the brokers that offer access to such insurance click here

Where do I go for further advice on Pubwatch?

If you need more help than is available to you on the website, contact any of our representatives through the contact information shown on this website. Remember if you need advice in starting a Pubwatch or you are experiencing a problem that we have a vast amount of experience and we will probably be able to answer your questions and provide the help needed. Other contacts that may be able to help are your Local Authority/Police Licensing officers; many of whom are well equipped to answer questions and help.

What has it done?

We have created the first national database of watches in the UK and provided a voice for the concerns and problems facing schemes that are trying to prevent crime and violence in and around licensed premises. To date we have assisted in the creation of over 600 new watch schemes and provided advice support and assistance to numerous existing schemes across the country.
As previously mentioned we publish and distribute free advice and guidance through our website, newsletter and Good Practice Guide. We provide small quantities of free posters and window stickers to help schemes get up and running. Alternatively watches can download information and materials direct from our website. Anyone watching TV soaps may notice the NPW logo displayed in pubs that feature in them!
Over time we have encouraged and supported several Pub companies to adopt positive policies towards Pubwatch in managing their estate as well as opening links with industry bodies and the Home Office. As a consequence most local authorities and the police services in England & Wales are aware of the support we can provide for watch schemes and community safety crime & disorder plans. The importance of Pubwatch and its good practice was endorsed in guidance issued under Section 182 of the Licensing Act 2003.
Since its inception National Pubwatch has provided support for various industry initiatives on social responsibility and continues to run its own successful conferences around the country covering the principle issues that affect pubwatches at a local level. We also recognise the work carried out by hardworking individuals who give their time and effort to promote Pubwatch through our own ‘Outstanding Contribution’ awards.

What is National Pubwatch?

National Pubwatch is an entirely voluntary organisation set up to support existing Pubwatches and encourage the creation of new schemes with the key aim of achieving a safe, secure and responsibly led social drinking environment in all licensed premises throughout the UK, helping to reduce alcohol-related crime. We do not manage or accredit local schemes.

We work hard to maintain the integrity of Pubwatch and have developed a good working relationship with the Home Office and NPCC and are regularly consulted on issues that may affect local schemes. We frequently work with government agencies and other organisations to address specific pub related problems that will improve safety.

We are entirely funded by the pub trade and provide our services free of charge. We provide advice and guidance though our website, newsletters, annual conference, Pubwatch awards and good practice guide. Our Committee members and regional representatives have a wealth of practical experience of working with Pubwatch schemes and are committed to helping local Pubwatch members and their supporters.

Is membership of pubwatch compulsory in any part of the country and is compulsory membership a good idea?

We think that Pubwatch should be acknowledged by the Licensing Authorities and Police as a demonstration of good management and a commitment to the four Licensing Objectives. However Pubwatch membership has traditionally been a voluntary activity undertaken by licensees for their own benefit.
Unfortunately when the new Premises Licence was introduced in November 2005, some Licensing Authorities obtained blanket conditions for licenses in their area which included the requirement that premises should be a member of the local Pubwatch scheme. We advised against this course of action but the advice was either ignored or not received. We do not doubt that the decision taken at that time was made with the best of intentions, as Pubwatch membership is seen as good practice. However we do not believe that Licensing Authorities understood the way that Pubwatch has developed and the potential consequences of making such a requirement.

It is not uncommon for a Pubwatch scheme to collapse due to a variety of reasons such as lack of funding, people unwilling to take up the offices of the watch or due to general apathy. In the strict interpretation of the law, if this happened in an area where membership was a requirement then the Premises Licence holders could be seen as failing to comply with a condition of the licence. We see this as problematic for all concerned. Similarly if a premise is thrown out of a scheme for breach of the rules or refusing to conform to the majority decisions of the watch and such a condition was present the same problem would arise.

A Pub or Club in our area refuses to join our pubwatch, what should we do?

Pubwatch is a voluntary activity and the act of joining a scheme is the choice of the licence holder. It has always been the case that some licensees will decide that they do not want to join or comply with the majority decisions of the watch over who can be served. This is their right and the Pubwatch will not be affected by this. A Pubwatch scheme will only work effectively if the membership want to work together and do not undermine each other. In time the licensee could attract the customers who are the problem people banned from all the other premises and may have a change of heart.

In the case of a Members Club they may actually have a problem in joining a watch as membership gives them certain rights in relation to the premises. Normally members of such clubs cannot be refused access or service unless they have breached the clubs rules which means that if they are banned by the Pubwatch for an incident at premises other than the club the ban would not be enforceable by the club unless there rules allowed for this. Having said that we do know that many Members Clubs seem to be able to accommodate this issue within their working practices and benefit from Pubwatch membership.

How can a watch ensure Pubwatch bans do not breach Human Rights legislation?

The decision to ban an individual will have been taken in order to protect a business or the safety of staff and customers. It is not a punishment, but quite often the banned individual or their legal representative will infer that the act of being banned has infringed their ‘human rights’.

Human Rights legislation only applies to public bodies and these are normally accepted as national or local government bodies or controlling organisations setup under statutory regulation. As Pubwatch is no more than a local group of people who have got together on a voluntary basis for their own benefit, they are not required to take account of this legislation. If you consider the origins of the legislation it was created following the Second World War to safeguard populations from oppression by their Governments. It was not, and is not, intended to affect a voluntary group such as a Pubwatch from taking action to protect themselves and their patrons by excluding others from their premises.

All those premises holding a premises licence as with most other businesses have the right to not supply or serve or grant access to anyone they choose provided they do not do so as an act of discrimination on the grounds set out in the relevant legislation. Effectively a person has no ‘Right’ to enter and consume drink in a pub or club unless the licence holder agrees.

There have been unsuccessful attempts to overturn Pubwatch bans through Judicial Review. The two most recent notable cases in Buckingham and Haverhill saw the claimants attempt to link the activities of the Police and other public bodies with the management and processes of the Pubwatch schemes. More information and advice on this important issue will be found in the National Pubwatch Good Practice Guide but also see Who should run a Pubwatch?

How can a Pubwatch circulate photos of people who have received bans without breaching data protection regulations?

Pubwatch schemes which control personal data e.g. names or images, must comply with GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018.

If a Pubwatch scheme intends to store or share information such as CCTV images between its members, it should register its activity with the Data Commissioner. Registration is an easy process which can be carried out online and is subject to a relatively modest fee. In addition you should produce your own protocol for the secure handling of data by Watch members. Any data; which includes photographic images, should be dealt with sensitively. GDPR and DPA 2018 in the context of Pubwatch are explained in greater detail in the NPW Good Practice Guide. A sample data sharing protocol can be found on our website.

Sometimes a Watch will also be able to obtain photographs from other sources; such as the press or on publicly accessible social media sites where the individual has posted their image or as previously mentioned, voluntarily direct from the banned person in exchange for a reduced period of exclusion. However we would caution against using social media, even if the image is easily accessible, as its very unlikely that the ‘owner’ would have intended it to be used for Pubwatch purposes. It is possible that that use of such images will not meet the ‘fairness’ requirement of GDPR and DPA.

The Police may also be willing to provide you with police photographs of banned individuals, but this will be at their discretion and will be for a police purpose e.g. prevention of crime and disorder. It will also be subject to a locally agreed data sharing agreement. Police forces deal with this issue in different ways. Some will produce a folder of police photographs which has to be signed for by the Watch member; others will share them by using a system such as Pubwatch Online where the member has to use a secure password to access the site and the photograph is given a watermark to show who has downloaded an image.

Other than Pubs and Clubs, which groups/businesses/organisations have joined pubwatch groups and is it a good idea to include them?

The membership of many Pubwatch schemes will be dominated by pubs, clubs and nightclubs but Watches do also incorporate other establishments that hold a premises licence such as hotels, restaurants, cinemas, bowling alleys and off-licences. There are some town centre watches that also include their late night fast food outlets and will even work closely with local taxi companies as they recognise that the same problem individuals can affect their businesses.
Many areas have other schemes such as Shopwatch or other organisations linking the day time retail economy with the night time. Whilst these schemes should not form part of a watch it is recommended that a Pubwatch maintains some liaison with these groups in order to exchange information and intelligence about issues that affect everyone. See also the page on Partnerships for additional information

How long should Pubwatch ban be?

A Pubwatch ban is a collective decision taken by a Watch to exclude an individual from all participating premises in the scheme by using the licensee members long standing Common Law power. It is not a punishment as some people would suggest, but is a decision taken by the licensee members to protect their business and safeguard staff and customers. As such it should have no bearing on whether or not a case has or is being investigated by the Police or if it was successfully prosecuted.

There is no hard and fast rule as to how long a Pubwatch ban should be and it’s purely down to views of the Watch members and the specific problems that they face from the person that they wish to exclude from their premises. Some schemes may wish to deal with each case on its merits; others may wish to work within a set of previously defined tariff depending on the type of incident. However they decide to operate it’s a decision taken by the members and is not subject to judicial rules or process.

Whatever the watch decides they need to acknowledge that there will always be instances where there is a need to treat a case as exceptional and outside the scope of their normal course of action. Some watches impose life bans for particular offences, such as serious assaults on staff or supplying drugs. It could be argued that a life time or long term ban may not be as effective as a shorter one as the individual may consider “What have I got to lose if I breach it?” However it is very much up to each watch to decide what is appropriate for their area according to local issues.

Some Watches will offer those banned an opportunity to have a reduced ban, (6months less) if they provide a passport size photograph of themselves for use by the watch to identify them. Others will ask an individual to enter a voluntary agreement to be of future good behaviour, sometimes called an ‘acceptable behaviour agreement’ either as an alternative to being banned or at the end of the banning period.

Some individuals will challenge a Pubwatch ban either personally or through a legal representative. As previously stated a Pubwatch ban is a Common Law issue and not a judicial process. It is entirely up to the Watch as to whether it wishes to consider a banned persons appeal. That said many Watches will have an appeals process to allow an individual to state their case and thereby show a balanced approach. It is for the Watch to decide how it hears the appeal and they are not obliged to speak personally to the banned person or a solicitor. In most cases a letter from the banned person setting out the facts from their perspective is all that is required.

There is no Pubwatch in my area how do I go about starting one?

If there is no existing Pubwatch in your local area and you want to start one we suggest that you first speak to some like minded licensees in neighbouring premises to discuss what the local problems are and whether they have an appetite for working together to tackle them. Enlist the support of your local neighbourhood police officer and also the police and/or council licensing officers. Set up an inaugural meeting and invite all the local licensees together with the police and licensing officers. Choose the time, day and location carefully to get maximum attendance.

You might find it helpful to ask a Pubwatch member from a neighbouring area or even a regional representative of National Pubwatch to speak at the meeting so they can explain the benefits of a starting up a scheme. The police may also be willing to show their support by talking about how they liaise with local Pubwatch schemes. Police should not be involved in the managing of a scheme or its processes and that includes decisions as to whether you ban someone because they are a public body and subject to Human Rights legislation. If they share specific information and intelligence with you it will be for a policing purpose e.g. prevention and detection of crime.

The most important thing to achieve at the first meeting is that the licensee members agree to start a Pubwatch scheme and that they will work together to address their local problems and an acceptance that the members will abide by the decisions of the Watch. If people are not prepared to abide by decisions they should not be members as it is better to work with like-minded individuals than have someone undermine your efforts.

The National Pubwatch website and Good Practice Guide will provide you with all the information you need to consider when starting up a scheme. We can also provide sample documents should you wish to set out a formal constitution. However the important thing to remember is that this is your Watch and we only provide advice and guidance. It is for you to decide what problems you want to address and how you achieve it. A Pubwatch scheme should be simple and cost effective and most importantly run by and for the benefit of its members. We would however strongly recommend some research as to what the current position is with regard to crime and disorder as this will help you benchmark the Watches success or otherwise. See ‘What impact does Pubwatch have on reducing incidents of disorder in licensed premises?’ for further information on this subject.

If you need any additional help at any stage get in touch with National Pubwatch either through its website or by contacting a regional representative direct..

What types of technology are available to help a Pubwatch?

The simplest method of communication between members of a small scheme or one operating in a rural area is for members to agree a ring around system; where one premises will contact one or two others and they in turn contact others on the list. In a town centre the Watch might want to make use of a radio scheme, which will provide instant contact between premises and these can often be linked to the local CCTV control room. Obviously there are cost implications but many schemes have been able to either buy into an existing town centre radio-link or fund their own system through purchasing equipment outright or by entering into hire agreements with a radio communication company. The fast changing world of technology is also making the use of mobile phone messaging and photography much more cost effective and accessible.

There are now a number of computer online solutions such as ‘Pubwatch Online’, which will not only allow the sending of messages, but will also allow the Watch to administer its business in a paperless way, including the storing of photographs and CCTV images. Access to the site is by secure password and it will have other safety features to comply with Data Protection legislation. This type of system will require members to have access to the internet and to be relatively computer literate but it does have advantages for a scheme as it can produce cost and time savings which are crucial if you are running a business.
A number of companies can also provide computer based controlled entry and ID check systems. These systems allow users to register a customer’s personal details as a condition of entry. Apart from being a good marketing tool it also allows the person to be checked against the list of banned persons. In addition for premises that have controlled entry there are computer systems which will check the persons proof of age card or other form of ID which may assist with preventing under age sales.

Where there may be a problem with weapons being brought on to licensed premises it is relatively inexpensive to purchase search wands which can be used to run over a customers clothes at point of entry. Many police forces have invested in so called ‘knife arches’ and they may be willing to work with the Watch to carry out high profile crime reduction searches in town centres and at individual premises. In the case of drugs there are also machines available which will quickly analyse and detect a number of illegal drugs. The machine can either be used to check a customers hands at point of entry to see if they have been in contact with drugs or to test specific areas of a pub to see if and where drugs are being used in the premises. This type of equipment is still relatively expensive and might only be appropriate for the larger high volume premises. However as with the knife arches some police forces have invested in these machines and they might be willing to work with the Watch to carry out a crime reduction initiative.

What impact does Pubwatch have on reducing incidents of disorder in licensed premises?

When NPW encouraged local schemes to provide information via a self completion survey through the NPW website it showed that most people believed that Pubwatch can have a significant impact. From the responses received we know that where evaluation has taken place, Watch members have claimed crime reductions of 20% to 80%. However as this was a self completion survey we had no way of verifying the claims and so in 2012 we commissioned Leeds Metropolitan University to carry out a UK wide evaluation of Pubwatch to see what Pubwatch members and other stakeholders thought about the effectiveness of Pubwatch.

The evaluation report showed that the vast majority of local authorities (76%), Police (70%) and licensees (70%) who responded to the survey believe Pubwatch to be contributing to a safer drinking environment in the areas in which they operate. Councils (71%) and Police (67%) also point to a decrease in anti-social behaviour in the wider localities as a result of effective schemes and closer partnership working.

Surveys carried out by the team led by Dr Alexandra Kenyon, also found that the Pubwatch led to closer and more effective partnership working between the licensed trade and key local partners. Licensees (87%), Police (92%) and Councils (91%) stated they would recommend joining or establishing a Pubwatch to other local licensees and authorities.

The Leeds Metropolitan research is now available to Pubwatch members and should greatly assist you in demonstrating that Pubwatch is a best practice scheme that should be taken seriously.

We also think that it is important that schemes take steps to evaluate their impact and progress from an early stage. It will show that you make a real contribution to dealing with local crime and disorder issues. It also will demonstrate to other stakeholders and potential funders that it is worthwhile investing time and effort in supporting your work.

If you have never carried out this type of research or lack the skills then we suggest that you enlist the help of the local police or community safety partnership to see if they might provide you with depersonalised crime data relating to crime trends in your watch’s area of influence. Be careful as to what you measure and that any evaluation focuses on where you operate and the type of incidents that you can impact on; for example a simple model for evaluating Pubwatch is to look at police recorded crime in members premises before the scheme is introduced and then look at it after it has been operating for 12 months. By benchmarking the crime at the start of the process you will be able measure you effectiveness year on year.

If you can’t obtain this type of data then you may wish to look at processes and activities or other things which you feel makes your scheme effective. The processes you use to communicate, share intelligence and maintain standards are an important and valid indicator of good practice and your efforts to reduce crime and improve safety. We know that if you are new to this type of thing it may appear daunting so we have teamed up with Leeds Beckett University to provide you with a free toolkit to help you get started.

Who should run the Pubwatch?

Pubwatch members have the ability and vested interest in managing their schemes; not only to ensure that their money and effort is focused on issues that cause them the greatest problems but also because it’s about the standards of behaviour they wish to maintain in their premises. Pubwatch has always been a voluntary activity, engaged in by operators of licensed premises primarily for their own benefit. As a voluntary body they will avoid some of the Human Rights and Freedom of Information Act obligations faced by the police and other public bodies. Public bodies such as the police should not be involved in the management of a scheme, decision making or the banning processes which could possibly put the Pubwatch at risk of legal challenge.

This does not however preclude the Pubwatch from working in co-operation and with the support of the Police or other Statutory Body. Quite the opposite; as to function effectively, the watch will need help and support from those agencies that have a legal duty to work in partnership with others, such as Pubwatch, to tackle crime and disorder issues. The police and other public bodies will benefit from having a forum of licensees where they can share information and advise them on crime trends and intelligence issues

What is Pubwatch and how does it work?

Pubwatch could be seen as the licensed trade’s equivalent of Neighbourhood Watch. The main difference is that a Pubwatch scheme is much more proactive in setting its own objectives and tackling the specific and unique problems faced by the pub on-trade. Pubwatch is not a new concept and has been successfully operating across the United Kingdom for over 40 years. Pubwatch schemes can range in size from over 200 premises, to be found in some towns and cities, too much smaller rural schemes which may have only a handful of participants.

The basic principle of Pubwatch is that its licensee members will agree to work together to improve the safety of their premises; for the benefit of their staff and customers. They will introduce initiatives to try and combat the criminal activity and anti-social behaviour that can often be associated, but not exclusively, with the misuse of alcohol or drugs. Invariably therefore the work of a Pubwatch scheme will be to set standards of acceptable behaviour and act robustly against the small number of individuals who cause problems for the pub trade. This will often result in Pubwatch members agreeing to jointly ban problem individuals who are violent, damage property, use or deal drugs or act in an anti-social manner.

It is the commitment to work and stick together that is the strength of Pubwatch membership; not least because of the powerful message it sends to problem individuals and the wider public. There is no doubt that Pubwatch schemes can have a significant impact on crime and anti-social behaviour in and around licensed premises.

Pubwatch is seen as good practice by the Police and Home Office and is a valuable way of demonstrating a commitment to promoting the four licensing objectives under the Licensing Act 2003 and the responsibility of the licensing trade in general. It is also arguably a means to discharge a part of a licensee’s Health & Safety responsibility to his/her staff and customers. If an individual is identified as posing a potential risk of assault and/or violence then that person ought to be included in the general risk assessment for the premises. One of the methods of eliminating or mitigating the risk posed by that person could be to refuse entry to the premises i.e. a ban.

Pubwatch can protect staff and customers, preserve and improve trade and fosters good working relationships with the Police, Licensing Authority and the Courts.