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IoL concerns re Notifiable Occupations Scheme and Personal Licence regime Published Date: 27/03/2015

The Institute of Licensing (IoL) has formally registered its concerns in relation to the forthcoming changes to the Notifiable Occupations Scheme and the rumours surrounding the proposed removal of Home Office Circular 006/2006 which provides guidance to police forces about the disclosure of convictions and other information in relation to people in professions or occupations which carry additional trust or responsibility (notifiable occupations).

The letter submitted to the Home Office this afternoon also places on record the potential issues around personal licence holders where a licence holder is convicted of a relevant or foreign offence.

The letter states:

'Although there has been no formal consultation that we are aware of, we believe the intention is to rely instead on 'Common Law Police Disclosure' which carries the test of 'pressing social need'. We further understand that the Home Office Circular 006/2006 has already been deemed 'disproportionate' and that many Constabularies are no longer complying with its provisions. It is regrettable that there has been no dialogue between the Home Office and local authorities, or the Institute of Licensing over these changes, which are being introduced at a particularly inopportune time.

'When reports on Child Sex Exploitation (Rochdale, Rotherham and more recently Oxfordshire) are highlighting the implications of poor communication and information sharing between authorities such as police and councils, we would register our concerns in the strongest possible terms. 

'What is needed now is greater co-operation and information exchange, based on clear and workable guidance on the ability of the police to share pertinent information in order to disrupt and prevent the grooming of children and vulnerable people, rather than a surreptitious removal of the existing guidance with no apparent replacement.

'The Rotherham report highlights the unacceptable implications of failure to share information legally and effectively (and subsequently to act on it), and shows the issues which we believe are prevalent in many if not the majority of areas across the country. This is particularly important in the case of taxi licences (again highlighted in the Rotherham report) but it also has major implications for other areas of licensing including late night refreshment, gambling and alcohol licensed premises.

'As you are aware, Home Office Circular 006/2006 states:

The general position is that the police should maintain the confidentiality of personal information, but legal opinion supports the view that in cases invoking substantial public interest considerations a presumption to disclose convictions and other information to relevant parties, unless there are exceptional reasons not to do so, is considered lawful. Areas in which it is considered there are likely to be substantial public interest considerations include:

  • protection of the vulnerable, including children
  • national security
  • probity in the administration of justice

'In our opinion, this is a firmer and clearer criteria than 'pressing social need', and we would urge the Home Office to either retain or replace the existing circular in order to maintain robust guidance to practising police officials who are tasked with preserving confidentiality on the one hand and protecting the public on the other. Whilst it may be necessary to update the Guidance, clarity and openness are essential. At present there is no clear statement on the position, local authorities are being kept in the dark, and the public are being put at risk.

'In addition to the Notifiable Occupations Scheme, we would take this opportunity to also formally bring to the attention of the Home Office another issue of concern relating to personal licences issued by licensing authorities under the Licensing Act 2003. \r\n\r\n'You will be aware that once issued, personal licences are currently in force for 10 years. As from 1 April 2015 the requirement to renew a personal licence after that period will be removed (pursuant to the recently enacted section 69 of the Deregulation Act 2015). The issue here is that the personal licence is virtually unique in that there is no ability for the licensing authority to take any action against that licence once it has been granted and is in force with the exception of the ability to revoke the licence where the applicant has been convicted of a relevant or foreign offence during the application period 

'We are aware of situations where personal licensees have been convicted of offences which would usually prevent them being granted a licence on new application, but the courts are failing to take action against that licence on conviction.

'A recent example was in the South East. A personal licence holder was given a Community Order by the Courts following conviction relating to images of child pornography, but no action was taken by the Court in relation to the personal licence. In other cases, individuals have failed to declare that they are a personal licence holder in court, and the only recourse subsequently in this situation is to prosecute the individual for failing to declare it - a timely and costly exercise, at a time when budgets are under significant pressure. 

'There will of course be varying views on this issue both within and outside of IoL’s membership. The IoL, as a broad church organisation, is though well placed to obtain the views of both the trade and the regulatory authorities and to obtain more examples of this nature. It would be happy to do so if the Home Office conclude that this situation should be more closely examined.

'Due to the pressing social concerns around these areas, we intend to notify our members and other stakeholders of this communication and any responses received as we believe it is in the wider interest that both the Notifiable Occupations Scheme changes and the issues around Personal Licences are openly discussed.'