POLICE have raised ‘serious concerns’ after magistrates overturned a council’s decision to revoke the licence of a shop caught selling alcohol to children.
Worthing Borough Council’s licensing committee took a hardline approach in June after The Shop, in Chapel Road, failed two alcohol-related test purchases – the latter just days after serving a suspension for the first offence.
Magistrates overruled the revocation on Friday, stating the committee had not given full consideration of alternative sanctions.
Sussex Police head of licensing Jean Irving said: “We have very serious concerns as to the message this sends to other premises who also do not take their social responsibility seriously and will sell alcohol to children. It is a very disappointing result.”
Committee chairman Paul High echoed the police’s disappointment and stated all options were considered.
He said: “I strongly feel that the committee made the correct decision to punish this establishment and now that decision has been overturned and no punishment at all given, it gives the wrong message to Worthing that selling alcohol to children is acceptable, which of course to most people it is not.”
The Shop had additionally failed a Trading Standards test purchase for the sale of tobacco to under-18s but such products are not governed by the premises licence which was under review.
Mr Soni, the licence holder, claimed he was the first in the country to install a complex till system, requiring a date of birth to be entered for every restricted sale.
He also employed a member of staff to take the pressure of long days off him, a reason he cited for the failed test purchases.
Speaking after the appeal, he said: “I really want to thank the local community and our customers for showing their faith, love and support for nine years and especially in this tough time and for being there for us on Friday. ‘
“I want to once again apologise to Worthing (Borough) Council and Sussex Police for the mistakes we have made this year whilst trying to improve.
“I want to thank Worthing Magistrates and Mr Dadds, my barrister, for their trust in us.”
Don MacQuarrie, who was among a number of supporters present at the appeal, said The Shop had been run for nine years in an exemplary fashion, adding the committee ‘had used a sledgehammer to crack a nut’.