Sunday, September 15, 2013

Article in The Shout magazine - Pubs baulk at OLGR & Police pressure tactics

Article in The Shout magazine - Pubs baulk at OLGR & Police pressure tactics

Pubs baulk at OLGR pressure tactics

By Clyde Mooney - editor Australian Hotelier
Amid reports that the State regulator is distributing 'suggestions' on adopting strict liquor accord standards, the industry has reacted with a resounding 'slow down!'
The Australian Hotels Association (AHA) NSW has received reports over recent weeks that Office of Liquor & Gaming (OLGR) officials and NSW Police licensing officers have been distributing documents based on their ‘suggestions for compliance’ to liquor accords. 
Reportedly some accords are being told they must accept these measures or ones similar to them, or face the prospect of conditions similar to those imposed on Newcastle or Kings Cross.
The AHA NSW has contacted senior OLGR staff, in response to numerous queries from both metropolitan and regional members relating to the distribution of the documents and the manner in which the information is delivered.  
The OLGR representatives informed the Association that the intent of the program is: ‘to ensure all areas have considered the terms of their accords’; that the documents are ‘a guide only’ to stimulate discussion, based on existing measures from around NSW; and ‘not by any means a list of recommended strategies that accords must adopt’.
AHA NSW has always supported member involvement in the establishment and participation in local liquor accords, but warns members to think carefully before they proceed.
“Liquor Accords are about developing local solutions to their issues,” said AHA NSW CEO Paul Nicolaou.
“On that basis, members are strongly advised to consider carefully the issues that are affecting [their] local area, and to make informed and voluntary decisions in relation to any strategies that are adopted.”
Liquor licensing specialist law firm Sylvester & Browne bode the wisdom of proceeding cautiously, having seen first hard the results of operators railroaded into stringent voluntary conditions. 
"Some of our clients have certainly been pressured into agreeing with the inclusion of certain conditions on a supposedly 'voluntary' basis,” David Sylvester, Principal Lawyer at Sylvester & Browne told TheShout.
“Others have been on the receiving end of Police using unrelated and biased intelligence in order to impose more stringent conditions. Many licensees adopt these terms and conditions through a fear of upsetting the Police or receiving increased attention from regulators.
“Unfortunately, and in line with the comments of the AHA, once formal conditions are imposed on a licensed venue, it is very difficult to have them removed. In our view, the large majority of venues are exceeding their responsibilities in so far as managing and reducing alcohol related violence is concerned.”
The AHA suggests that any operators who feel they are being intimidated or coerced into agreeing to terms for their accords, should not sign up to the terms in question.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

NSW Police settle Tort claim in favour of S&B client

Sylvester and Browne Lawyers are proud to announce the settlement of a civil compensation (Tort) claim by the NSW Police in favour of our client. The numerous claims in tort related to the actions of two NSW Highway Patrol officers in detaining and later charging our client with a number of criminal offences in 2011.

The client was driving to pick up his son from Tae Kwon Do lessons at Cronulla in Sydney's south when he was stopped by Highway Patrol Police who suspected that he had tried to avoid a random breath testing site further down the road.  When the client stepped from his vehicle to speak to officer, he was arrested, handcuffed and placed face down on the roadway for approximately 15 minutes in front of both his young son and daughter. During this time, other young Tae Kwon Do class participants and their families have walked past the client whilst handcuffed. In our view, it should have been obvious to the overzealous officers involved that our client was in fact picking up his son from the Tae Kwon Do class. This is backed up by the Police in-car-video footage which clearly shows the client pointing out of the driver's side window towards a group of boys dressed in Tae Kwon Do outfits. This appears to have been dismissed by the officers involved.

For some unknown reason, one of the officers has requested the attendance of a drug detection dog to conduct a search the client's car. No drugs were found. The client was then breath tested which proved negative. Perhaps fearing that they may have overstepped their authority, our client was then issued with court attendance notices for Assault Police and Resist Arrest. These charges were eventually withdrawn by Police Prosecutions some 5 months later without any apology or acknowledgement regarding the alleged wrongdoing of the officers involved.

In August 2013, the NSW Police agreed on confidential terms to settle the matter out of court.

Discussing the case generally, Principal Lawyer David Sylvester said, "It is unfortunate fact that sometimes Police abuse their powers during the execution of their duty. As a result, the victims of this abuse often suffer ongoing trauma associated with the incident. In many cases, the anger and hurt suffered by the aggrieved person tends to be exacerbated by the failure of the Police to apologise or accept responsibility for their actions."

Whilst the client is happy that the claim has been settled, he remains angered by the actions of the subject Highway Patrol officers. He is hopeful that this settlement will result in appropriate sanction for the officers and further training for Police generally so that tortious actions such as these can be avoided in the future.  


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Sylvester and Browne Lawyers successfully defend Defamation claim against nightclub

Sylvester and Browne Lawyers are pleased to advise that they have successfully defended a defamation claim against our client 'Palms on Oxford' nightclub located in Darlinghurst, Sydney.

In 2012, the complainant launched a defamation claim against the club, its Director and the Licensee. He claimed that he was told by security guards at the club that he was too drunk to enter and should go away and sober up somewhere else. These words were denied by the club, the licensee and the security guard involved. The complainant, who is a Sydney journalist, outlined in his statement of claim that the words alleged to have been spoken had defamed him and affected his reputation.

However, after a five day hearing in the NSW District Court before Judge Judith Gibson, the case was dismissed and the complainant was ordered to pay the costs of all three Defendants. For a copy of the judgment click on the link below.    

The Director of Tulloch Pty Ltd Mr Peter Inwood, the company that owns Palms on Oxford said in relation to case, "We engaged Sylvester & Browne Lawyers in 2012 after we received the initial anti-discrimination complaint. They also handled the subsequent defamation claim against the club. We could not be any happier with their representation of us in both of these matters. We are understandably ecstatic with the decision of the court. Unlike many other lawyers representing pubs and clubs in Sydney,  David and his team achieved what they said they would achieve.  I would highly recommend David and his team for the brilliant job they did in defending the defamation claim against us."

Commenting on the case generally, Principal Lawyer David Sylvester said, "This defamation judgment is a very important decision for those who own, operate or manage licensed venues in Australia. As the law currently stands, venues that engage in appropriate and responsible vetting procedures in relation to patrons and potential patrons should not be concerned when refusing entry to patrons pursuant to their responsibilities under both the Liquor and Anti-Discrimination Acts".

The following links relate to media coverage of the case.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

NSW Police withdraw liquor licensing breach

NSW Police withdraw Liquor Licensing breach

Sylvester and Browne Lawyers are proud to report that a liquor licensing breach issued against a Licensee of one of our Hotel clients based in the Darlinghurst area was withdrawn by NSW Police prior to a hearing at the Downing Centre Local Court last Wednesday the 13th of February 2013.

The case alleged by Liquor Licensing Police attached to the Surry Hills Command was that the Licensee had failed to provide CCTV footage to Police upon request pursuant to a condition on his licence. However, based on the evidence, it should have been clear to the investigating Police that there was in fact a person on the premises at the time who was able to burn the subject footage to DVD and that a thorough investigation by the Police, rather than assumptions, would certainly have uncovered that fact.

Interestingly, the case highlighted an issue regarding the urgency of the Police request for CCTV footage. The evidence outlined that the subject incident being investigated allegedly occurred 7 days prior to the request. Why then did it take so long for investigating Police to attend the hotel and request the footage? Further, the relevant Notice to produce the CCTV footage that was issued to the Licensee had been backdated to the week before the Police attended the hotel. Whether this was a typographical error or otherwise remains to be seen.  Suffice it to say, licensees should ensure that they carefully check any documentation produced or relied upon by the Police prior to deciding upon a specific course of action.

Thankfully, sanity prevailed in this particular case and the Police Prosecutor withdrew the breach prior to the hearing. Sylvester and Browne Lawyers highly recommend that Licensees seek specialised legal advice prior to making  admissions to Police or paying fines issued for liquor licensing breaches. It is important to remember that when a breach or fine is paid by a licensee and/or manager, that information may be used by licensing Police and other regulatory agencies in unrelated proceedings in the future to indicate a pattern of offending by a particular licensee.  Food for thought.

David Sylvester
Principal Lawyer

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

S&B Lawyers sign agreement with Diageo Australia

Sylvester & Browne Lawyers to provide liquor licensing advice to Diageo Australia 

The directors of Sylvester and Browne Lawyers are proud to announce that the firm has been selected to provide specialised liquor licensing advice to Diageo Australia. Diageo plc is a British multinational alcoholic beverages company headquartered in London. Diageo is also the world's largest producer of spirits and a major producer of beer and wine. Diageo's major brands include Smirnoff vodka, JohnnyWalker Scotch Whiskey, Baileys liqueur, Guinness stout and Jose' Cuervo tequila.

When commenting on the agreement, Sylvester and Browne Lawyers' Managing Director Mr David Sylvester said, "We are extremely pleased to have been selected to provide liquor licensing advice to Diageo Australia. Not only is Diageo a worldwide leader in their field, they are also at the forefront of industry efforts in relation to the promotion of responsible alcohol consumption. We look forward to providing specialist advice and legal representation to the Diageo Australia team for the foreseeable future."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

PIC hypocrisy at its highest

See the link below for an article outlining that the hypocrisy of the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) appears to know no bounds.

Considering that this particular PIC inquiry was (among other issues) investigating the alleged improper release of information to the media by senior Police, it's quite ironic that the PIC Commissioner Mr John Pritchard himself was found to have illegally provided confidential material to the media.  Contrary to the treatment dished out to the veteran NSW Police Superintendent who was the subject of the inquiry, Mr Pritchard was simply allowed to resign from his next appointment as head of the Australian Crime Commission rather than face criminal charges for breaching the PIC's secrecy provisions. According to the report, the PIC Inspector found that Pritchard had apparently "paid a high personal and professional price for his actions". Please.

Even more disturbing is the journalist's reference to the fact that the PIC Inspector's report found that the PIC's current No.3, Michelle O'Brien had apparently joked with Pritchard about the leak of confidential information. The total disregard of the privacy of those individuals involved in this matter can only be described as appalling. And all of this to make the beleaguered PIC "look better"! If O'Brien was complicit in the release of confidential information, surely her senior position at the PIC is untenable. Time for action Mr Premier.