The Epic Group Scotland Limited v. Procurator Fiscal, Aberdeen

11th March 2014

Background

On 19 February 2014, the appellant was convicted at Aberdeen Justice of the Peace Court and fined £1,000. The charge was as follows:

“on 3 March 2012 at Prohibition, 31 Langstane Place, Aberdeen you The Epic Group Scotland Limited, being the holder of the premises licence did sell alcohol to RL, born 9 May 1994 and MW, born 1 June 1994, all c/o Grampian Police, Queen Street, Aberdeen, all of whom were a child or a young person under the age of 18 years contrary to the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, section 102(1)”

Appeal

The premises was a nightclub in Aberdeen called Prohibition. Under section 141B of the Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, it is an adequate defence if the license holder, in this case the general manager, Richard Bruce, can show that due diligence was exercised to prevent the offence. The defence claimed that the justice had neglected to establish whether this was the case.

In fact, Prohibition operates under a ‘Challenge 25’ policy, meaning anyone looking younger than 25 would be asked for identification. This is enforced not only on the door, but by floor stewards and the bar staff. Furthermore, it is written into the employment contracts that any member of staff found to have violated this policy could be fired for gross misconduct.

The two girls who were sold alcohol, RL and MW had dressed and styled their hair to look much older than they were. This was confirmed by a police officer who saw RL in a McDonald’s at 2am. He claimed that he thought she was an 18-year-old and would not have been surprised if she had been in a licensed premises.

Conclusion

The court agreed with the defence that the justice had reached an unreasonable conclusion. He had failed to ask take into account the ‘Challenge 25’ system in place, as proved by training documents, minutes and the evidence of Prohibition’s general manager, Richard Bruce. Partially the failure of the system was down to the girls looking far older than their age. The club had no history of underage drinking charges and the justice’s objection to the lack of evidence of remedial steps following the incident was irrelevant to judging the case. The appeal was therefore upheld.

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