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Councillor hits back at magistrates over Boscombe store licensing row
A BOURNEMOUTH councillor has hit back at magistrates who described council officers as “unprepared” and “lacking substance”.
Councillor David Smith, speaking to the adult and community overview committee on Thursday, said he was “very disappointed” in the magistrates’ judgement at Bournemouth Magistrates Court.
Their comments arose during an appeal two weeks ago by the Crescent Food Hall in Boscombe, which was originally refused a licence to serve alcohol by councillors in May.
As well as criticising senior licensing officer Sarah Rogers and head of community regeneration Sue Bickler, the magistrates overruled the licensing board’s decision and granted the licence.
Cllr Smith, who is cabinet member for planning and environment, said in the meeting: “These are two highly regarded and professional officers who undertake their duties diligently.
“It is my view that direct criticism of the council’s officers by the magistrates is unhelpful.
“They should not be in a position of having to tolerate the level of criticism levelled at them and will continue to have the full confidence of the council.”
Speaking to the Daily Echo, Cllr Smith said the council’s legal team would be writing to the court claiming it was inappropriate to personally criticise officers.
He also backed the council’s original decision to refuse the licence on the grounds that the store was within the Boscombe cumulative impact area, and might contribute to local street drinking.
“There have been significant problems in the Boscombe area, particularly in and around The Crescent, and the licensing board determined that another off-licence in that area would add to crime and disorder,” he said.
“We will be writing to our MPs about this, what is the point of councillors following the regulations, hearing the evidence and making a judgement if it can just be heard again and overturned in court.”
During the appeal, magistrates said statistical evidence from the police “did not go far enough and was not clear” and pointed out that crime and antisocial behaviour was falling when the store had a licence previously.
Both the court and the Judicial Communications Office declined to comment.
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