Pub licensee (Personal licence)


Under the new Licensing Act of 2003, it is mandatory for anyone operating or wishing to operate licensed premises to be a Personal Licence Holder. The personal licence is separate from the licence which authorises the premises to be used for the supply of alcohol.

How to obtain the right qualification

In order to obtain a Personal Licence, you must attend a one-day course and pass the BIIAB Level 2 Award for Personal Licence Holders (formerly known as the National Certificate for Personal Licence Holders or NCPLH). The aim of the qualification is to ensure that licence holders are aware of licensing laws and the wider social responsibilities attached to the sale of alcohol.

Personal licence application form

Obtain a personal licence application form from the Licensing department of the local authority in which you live. You can also download a disclosure of convictions & declaration form. Whilst you will be unable to send off the application form at this stage as there are a number of further documents to obtain, it will save you some time later. The form itself will require certain details to be provided, and you will be required to provide additional information and documents such as 2-x passport sized photographs as well as the fee of £37 for the application. If it appears that there are convictions for any relevant or foreign offences, then the licensing authority will give a notice to the chief officer of the police for the area.

‘Relevant offence’ refers to the offences listed in the Act that could, on conviction, rule out the grant or renewal of a personal licence to the applicant concerned. The offences include:

  • those involving serious crime
  • those involving serious dishonesty
  • those involving controlled drugs
  • certain sexual offences
  • offences created by the Act

Since the Licensing Act 2003 received Royal Assent, there have been some minor changes to the list of relevant offences. Applicants should therefore refer to Schedule 4 of the Licensing Act 2003 and The Licensing Act 2003 (Personal licence: relevant offences) (Amendment) Order 2005

Convictions for offences (other than relevant offences) under the law of any place outside England and Wales, including other parts of the United Kingdom such as Scotland and Northern Ireland, are counted as foreign offences. Details of these will also need to be given. The reason for the separate terms is that offences under the law of places outside England and Wales, which are equivalent to relevant offences, will not necessarily exist in exactly the same form as relevant offences.

When applying for the grant of a personal licence or for the renewal of a personal licence, you must include details of any relevant or foreign offences for which you have been convicted or, in the case of applications for the renewal of the licence, have been convicted since the grant or last renewal of the licence. However, as the position of Licensee is not exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, you do not need to disclose any convictions that are spent under the Act.

For relevant offences the police will consult either their own records or those of the relevant police force if the offence was committed in a different area. The Chief Police Officer will then notify the licensing authority if he is satisfied that granting or renewing the personal licence would undermine the licensing objective of preventing crime and disorder. For foreign offences the police will take steps to contact their counterparts in the region or country where the conviction occurred.

If the police make no objections within a 14-day period then the licence must be granted.

A personal licence does not authorise its holder to supply alcohol anywhere, but only from establishments with a premises licence authorising the supply of alcohol in accordance with the premises licence. An individual may only hold one personal licence at any one time.

Criminal record check

A basic Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) criminal record check is required as part of the application, and this can be obtained from the (DBS). This will not disclose any convictions that are regarded as spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

The licence

The personal licence, once issued, will last for 10 years. The licence can be renewed for further periods of 10 years. The licence will be renewed if the licence holder has not been convicted of any relevant or foreign offences. If any such convictions have occurred since the licence was granted or renewed, then the licensing authority must notify the chief officer of police for its area who may object to the renewal.

The personal licence will be in 2 forms. The first will be in a small durable form, and contains the following information:

  • The holders name and address
  • An identifier for the licensing authority which granted it
  • A photograph of the holder
  • A unique number allocated by the licensing authority
  • The date of expiry

The second part of the licence will contain the above information, with the exception of the photograph, and will also contain details of any relevant or foreign offence which the holder has been convicted.

Once you are granted your personal licence, if you are then charged with a relevant offence, you must produce your personal licence to the court. If that is not practical, then you must tell the court that you hold a personal licence, who the issuing authority is and the reason why you cannot produce your licence. If you are then convicted, the court will notify the relevant licensing authority about the conviction, and may order the forfeit or suspension of the licence.

Failure to produce or notify the court about your licence, without reasonable excuse, is an offence under section 128 of the Act. The sentence on conviction of this offence is a fine of up to £500 and could result in the forfeit or suspension of the licence.

Useful resources

Advice on personal licences is available on the GOV.UK website. There is also statutory guidance. This guidance is aimed at local authorities but may also be of interest to applicants. Section 4 refers to Personal Licences, and specifically sections 4.5-4.10, to criminal records. The guidance states that the Secretary of State recommends that, where the police have issued an objection notice, the licensing authority should normally refuse the application.


The hearings process is set out in the Licensing Act 2003. Section 120 sets this out for an application for a grant of a personal licence. In brief:

  • If the Local Authority thinks that the applicant has a conviction for a relevant offence or foreign offence, it must notify the police;
  • If the police think that granting the licence would undermine the crime prevention objective, they must within 14 days of receiving initial notice from the Local Authority send notice of their objection to the Local Authority;
  • If no objection is made by the police within this period, the Local Authority must grant the licence;
  • If the police do object, the Local Authority must hold a hearing to consider it (unless everyone involved [i.e. applicant, police, Local Authority] agrees that this isn’t necessary) and can then either reject the application if they agree that granting the application would undermine the crime prevention objective – but otherwise grant the application;
  • Regulations fill out the detailed process, including (i) the Local Authority must hold the hearing within 20 working days beginning with the day after the end of the 14 day period within which the police can object, and (ii) the Local Authority must notify the applicant and police of the hearing date, (iii) the Local Authority must send the applicant the police objection with the notice of hearing
  • There are additional regulations concerning how the hearing itself is conducted.


You have the right of appeal if your application is rejected by the Local Authority. You can appeal the Local Authority’s decision made at a hearing or if the Local Authority rejected the application after initially receiving it because, for example, the Local Authority took the view that you wasn’t aged 18 or over etc. The right of appeal is prescribed by paragraph 17 of Schedule 5 to the Licensing Act 2003. The appeal lies to the Magistrates’ Court and must be made within 21 days of the applicant being notified of the LA’s decision to reject the application. You should also note that the police have a right of appeal if they’ve objected but the Local Authority has decided to grant the application after having the hearing. If the Magistrates’ Court doesn’t allow an appeal, the party bringing the appeal could make a further application to the High Court

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