Lidl diligence wins at appeal

A VICTORY, last month, for discount store operator Lidl in a Court of Session appeal could have major implications for the way Scottish licensing law is implemented.
The company had appealed against a five-day licence suspension after a staff member had sold alcohol to an underage test purchaser.
After losing a case at Glasgow Sheriff Court the firm took the appeal to the Court of Session where appeal judges Lord Eassie, Lord Mackay of Drumadoon and Lord Wheatley overturned the ban.
The ban had been issued after a store manager had sold a bottle of wine to a 16-year-old test purchaser without asking for ID. The staff member was sacked and Lidl said it had a robust system in place which had not been applied.
The appeal judges said the ban didn’t appear to pursue the licensing objectives but instead had been used as a punishment.
In their written judgement, the judges said it was difficult to identify a cogent reason why the five-day ban should have been imposed. They inferred that the suspension was to impose a financial penalty on a premises licence holder where one employee had on a single instance departed from the employer’s instructions.
The ruling appears to strengthen the hand of licensees in similar positions where a staff member fails to obey age-related purchase procedures.
Expert licensing lawyer Tom Johnston of Young and Partners said the decision was “very welcome”.
“The appeal court judges decided in Lidl’s favour. They took the view that imposing a financial penalty was not consistent with supporting the licensing objectives,” he explained.
“But they went further, stating that in the circumstances of the case, where there were no criticisms of the company’s systems or practice, it was not appropriate even to find the grounds of review established.”
But he warned that businesses and licensees should not become complacent and said it was important to train and retrain staff, log the training and log all refusals scrupulously.

Lidl, Victoria Road, Glasgow. Appeal judges quashed its suspension.
Lidl, Victoria Road, Glasgow. Appeal judges quashed its suspension.