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Public Interest Immunity in a Licensing Case

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Public Interest Immunity in a Licensing Case 10th February 2019

In what is thought to be the first case of its kind, a court has allowed Public Interest Immunity to apply in a licensing case.

Public-interest immunity, previously known as Crown privilege, is a principle of English common law under which the English courts can grant a court order allowing one litigant to refrain from disclosing evidence to the other litigants where disclosure would be damaging to the public interest.

The case in the Crown Court involved an appeal by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council against the reinstatement of a taxi licence by a Magistrates’ Court.

Barristers acting for Rotherham persuaded the appellant Crown Court that Public Interest Immunity could apply to licensing hearings and, in the appeal case, that is should.

In delivering judgment in the Crown Court, the Recorder of Sheffield accepted these arguments. In his open judgment he identified three questions that the court had to consider:

  • Can PII be claimed in this form of appellate proceedings in the Crown Court in a licensing appeal?
  • If so, what are the principles that govern the decision?
  • Having applied those principles, is it right to grant PII to the material which has been made available to us?

His Honour Judge Jeremy Richardson QC ruled in favour of the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council’s argument.  He set out is some details the principles that govern the decision and the principles that are to apply when considering PII in licensing cases.

Whilst the case is not binding, it will be of interest to taxi and private hire licensing practitioners.

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