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Morris J has handed down a judgment in the first ever appeal to the High Court against a financial sanction imposed by the Pubs Code Adjudicator.

Star Pubs & Bars Limited (“Star”) appealed against a penalty of £2 million imposed by the Pubs Code Adjudicator (“the PCA”) for breaches of the Pubs Code pursuant to section 58(3) of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015.  

At a two day preliminary hearing, Morris J considered a number of matters including the proper scope of the appeal under the statutory provisions, an application to amend the notice of appeal to include the ground that the PCA failed to give Star the opportunity to make representations on penalty as distinct from findings of breach before its imposition and an application for specific disclosure and inspection of tenant evidence submitted to the PCA during the investigation.

Morris J held that the proper scope of a statutory appeal in relation to the grounds for imposing the penalty was limited to all matters relevant to the assessment of the gravity or otherwise of breaches of the Pubs Code and did not include questions of whether or not those breaches had been committed.  Further, Morris J held that Star had a real prospect of establishing that the PCA was under an obligation to provide Star with an opportunity to comment on the proposed penalty before it was imposed and granted permission to amend.  Finally, Morris J held that it was appropriate to order disclosure into a confidentiality ring on a limited basis in order to balance the ability of Star to pursue its appeal and tenant expectations of anonymity and the PCA’s concern about the risk of a chilling effect in the future.

Catherine Callaghan QC and Naina Patel acted for Star Pubs & Bars Limited.

A copy of the judgment can be found here.

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