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Vale prosecuted ‘landlord’ for running an Abingdon pub without a licence

Vale of White Horse District Council has successfully prosecuted a pub ‘landlord’ for continuing to sell alcohol at a pub in Eaton, near Abingdon after its licence had lapsed. He was ordered to pay £1,575.

Thomas O’Sullivan, aged 63, from Eaton, Abingdon, appeared at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Friday 25 February and pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching the Licensing Act at The Eight Bells in Eaton in July last year.

The court heard that Mr O’Sullivan had been informed in June 2021 that the premises licence at The Eight Bells had become invalid after the company, the Eight Bells (Eaton) Ltd, which held the licence, had ceased trading.

He was informed that as there was no licence for the premises anyone allowing or carrying out what would have been licensable activities – i.e. selling alcohol, would be committing an offence under the Licensing Act. 

Magistrates heard that on 10 July 2021 police had witnessed the selling of alcohol at the premises despite the warning about the lack of licence the previous month. Mr O’Sullivan was given another warning to stop selling alcohol.

On 17 July 2021 at lunchtime he was found to be still running the pub and selling alcohol and – despite a further warning – again that evening.

In mitigation, it was said that Mr O’Sullivan had held a premises licence for 11 years without incident and although he was exceptionally sorry for this “silly mistake”, the error occurred because he had asked a fellow licensee to help him apply for a new premises licence and he thought this had been done, but then realised it hadn’t. 

In sentencing, magistrates took into account Mr O’Sullivan’s early guilty plea. They imposed a fine of £300 for each of the two offences, £975 towards prosecution costs and a victim surcharge of £60, which came to a total of £1,635 to be paid within 28 days.

Cllr Helen Pighills, Cabinet Member for Healthy Communities with responsibility for licensing, said: “The licensing laws are there for a reason, namely to keep the public safe by ensuring landlords of pubs and restaurants and others involved in selling alcohol are regulated and accountable. As a licensing authority the council is committed to upholding these laws across the district and will prosecute those who break them.”

Update: the premises licence for The Eight Bells is currently in the name of Sheehan Haulage and Plant Limited who are the owners of the premises. Mr O’Sullivan has a role in running the pub but Owaine Jones is the designated premises supervisor (the person who has day-to-day responsibility for the running of the business).

Notes to editor

Thomas O’Sullivan was prosecuted for two breaches of Section 136 of the Licensing Act 2003 namely, to carry on or attempt to carry on a licensable activity at The Eight Bells Public House on the 10 and 17 July 2021.