July 11th, 2024 by James Goudie KC

WALK SAFE SECURITY SERVICES LTD v LEWISHAM LBC ( 2024) EWHC 1787 ( Admin) raises a pure question of law whether it is lawful for a licensing hearing before a local authority licensing committee to be held remotely. Chamberlain J holds that it is lawful, pursuant to the Licensing Act 2003 and the Licensing Act ( Hearings ) Regulations 2005. He observes that the point is of wide significance, because many local authorities conduct all or most licensing hearings remotely.

He said, at para 43, that there were 5 points relevant to interpretation that taken together favour a construction according to which remote hearings are permissible in principle. First, the term “ hearing” can be applied to both in person hearings and remote hearings. Second, the legislative context includes reference to the “ place “ at which the hearing takes place, and an online platform can properly be described as a “ place “. Third, there are “ important differences “between licensing hearings and local authority meetings. Fourth, the Regulations do not prohibit them and confer maximum procedural flexibility on licensing committees. Fifth, there is nothing in the Strasbourg Court jurisprudence to suggest that remote hearings “necessarily” gives rise to a violation of any ECHR procedural rights, albeit ( para 48 ) “ they may do so in particular cases, in which case a licensing authority would be obliged to consider alternative arrangements.”

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