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Pub licensee (Personal licence)

Aim of this page

Under the 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. The aim of this page is to assist you in applying for a personal licence if you have a criminal record and, how to appeal a decision if your application for a licence is refused.

Why is this important?

Applicants for a personal licence will need to disclose any unspent convictions and a basic Disclosure and Barring Service check will form part of the application process. It’s important to have a good understanding of how your criminal record will be dealt with before you apply for a licence and before you invest any money in getting the necessary qualifications.

Getting the right qualifications

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 (there are a number of further documents you’ll need to obtain), it will save you time later on.

The form itself will require certain details to be provided, and you’ll be required to provide additional information and documents such as:

  • 2-x passport sized photographs
  • the application fee which is currently £37.

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.

What are ‘relevant offences’

A ‘relevant offence’ refers to the offences listed in the Licensing Act that could, on conviction, rule out the grant or renewal of a personal licence to the applicant concerned.

  • 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.

Under 2003 Licensing Act Guidance (4.6) regulations, a licensing authority can, for the granting of a personal licence, request a criminal conviction certificate, a criminal record certificate (both of these are basic DBS checks), or the results of a subject access search of the Police National Computer by the National Identification Service to the licensing authority. This means that whilst an enforced subject access request (SAR) is now illegal, it can be requested for the granting of a personal licence.

We would recommend that when applying for your licence, you provide a basic DBS check, as a SAR is a copy of your complete criminal record and will disclose all cautions and convictions, whilst a basic DBS check will only disclose those which are unspent.

The licence

The personal licence, once issued, is open ended.

The personal licence will be in 2 forms.

  • 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.

Licence hearings

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.

  • 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 weren’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.

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

GOV.UK has further advice on personal licences

Statutory guidance – this 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.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on basic DBS checks and enforced subject access
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

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  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine.


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Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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