The Home Office has withdrawn guidance to police and licensing officers on how to operate Section 19 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act, which relates to the closure of licensed premises, writes Gurjit Degun. Publican’s Morning Advertiser, sister title to M&C Report, has found that a link to the November 2010 edition of Home Office’s Practical Guide for Preventing and Dealing with Alcohol Related Problems has been taken down from the department’s website. PMA Sources believe that this is because there are errors in the guidance for licensing officers on Section 19. The document said pubs could be immediately closed and licensees arrested if they breach conditions. Although it did not differentiate between closure notices and closure orders, notices under Section 19 can be served if a pub is in breach of licensing conditions, but this does not mean an immediate closure of the premises. Officers must obtain permission from a magistrate to issue a closure order. The move comes after the PMA revealed in April that licensees were being threatened with arrest and pubs with closure by police forces under Section 19. The move was labelled an “abuse” by the PMA’s legal editor Peter Coulson. Coulson said: “This is completely scandalous. A closure notice is different to a closure order, but the police are using the closure notices to cut corners. “They’re using minor things like CCTV not pointing in the right direction to close pubs down. “There is a problem over this advice and I think it’s appalling that the police look for such a minor thing that’s wrong and then effectively turn a closure notice into a closure order. “The licensee does not know that it is wrong but the police are threatening him with arrest. The Home Office will have to eat humble pie here.” Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Section 19 was never designed to be used in a Draconian way, to close down premises over minor licence breaches. It’s akin to being caught speeding at 31mph and having your licence instantly taken away. “Powers under the Licensing Act to address problem premises are more than sufficient.”