POLICE have paid a former licensee thousands of pounds in damages after illegally shutting down his bar during a series of raids.
Officers slapped closure notices on city centre bar The Bank on five occasions last February and March over alleged breaches of licence conditions.
But police – who were acting on Home Office guidance – had no legal right to close down the bar on Westgate or threaten arrests.
The former licensee was out of pocket due to lost trading hours and launched a judicial review.
Now a High Court judge has ordered the Home Office and West Yorkshire Police to each pay the former Bank licensee £7,500 in damages for loss of profit plus undisclosed costs.
Mr Justice Edwards-Stuart ruled that flawed Home Office guidance – which said officers could threaten arrests after issuing closure notices and immediately close bars and pubs down due to licence breaches – was unlawful.
A closure notice simply warns the licensee that if the licence condition breach is not put right within seven days then police can apply to magistrates for a closure notice.
Police issued The Bank licensee with a closure notice during one raid last February after claiming customers were dancing in an area not “designated” for dancing.
And last March police threatened to arrest the licence holder if he didn’t close the bar down immediately during a raid, because there was allegedly a certificate outstanding for electrical work at the bar.
The case led to Home Office chiefs withdrawing the guidance to police on closure notices.
A West Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “We acted entirely in good faith in accordance with the guidance and training provided by the Home Office.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The issuing of a Closure Notice does not require premises to close and licensees should not be threatened with arrest for refusing to take immediate action.”
Michael Kheng, of Kurnia Licensing Consultants Ltd who acted on behalf of claimant The Bar (Wakefield) Ltd, said: “My client and I felt it right to pursue this matter to a judgment, so that the legal position is clearly established, to protect future licensees from similar conduct.”