Clarification of Licensing Act Powers

A recent judical decision in the high Court has clarified the powers of a Police officer to use force to support a licensee to eject someone from licensed premises. Semple v. Luton and South Bedfordshire Magistrates’ Court [2009] QBD. Police powers to use force to in assist in removal of person drunk and disorderly from licensed premises Licensing Act 2003 s.143(4) S appealed by way of case stated against his conviction for resisting a police officer in the course of his duty. The police had been called to assist the landlord of a pub in ejecting S because he was drunk. The police officer put his hand on S’s back and led S through a set of exit doors. S began to struggle with the police officer. And once outside the public house S said that he was going to go back in and hit someone. The police officer attempted to hold S back, a scuffle ensued, S punched the police officer and he was arrested. The police officer stated that when he started to remove S from the public house he had not intended to arrest him. S was convicted in the Magistrates’ Court and appealed by way of case stated. S submitted that whilst the police officer was under a statutory obligation (Licensing Act 2003, s.143(4)) to assist in the removal of S from the public house, such a police officer was not allowed to use force outside of an arrest, as there was no reference to the use of force in s.143(4). Other sections of the Act specifically provided that a police officer carrying out certain duties under the Act could use “reasonable force”; the statutory predecessor to s.143(4) had referred to the use of force, so that the omission of force in s.143(4) meant that Parliament must have intended that force could not be used. S submitted that the police officer had not been acting in the course of his duty as he had used force to remove S from the public house and therefore S would be not guilty of assaulting a police officer in the execution of his duty. Held, dismissing the appeal: A constable could use reasonable force when ejecting a customer when required to assist a licence-holder. Implicit in a licence-holder’s request for assistance in ejecting a customer from his premises was a request that the customer be prevented from re-entering those premises immediately. Accordingly, the police officer had been acting in accordance with his duty at all times and was clearly entitled to restrain S, in particular after he had made a threat to commit an assault. Any other construction of s.143(4) of the 2003 Act would be absurd. A licence-holder had such powers in respect of a customer, so for a constable’s powers only to be those of arrest in those circumstances would make no sense