The Northern Territory Liquor Commission has already heard two cases this year relating to breaches of the Banned Drinkers Register (BDR) requirements.
Both cases, heard on the same day by the Commission, found that venues had sold liquor to individuals without scanning ID through the BDR. It comes after the mandatory scheme was established by the Northern Territory government from 1 September 2017.
In one case, at least 10,550 breaches were found over a 17 month period, with occasions dating back to the beginning of the BDR in 2017. The breaches were uncovered by an off duty compliance officer, who was sold liquor without being asked for ID.
After this occasion, the officer told the licensee that all sales must be scanned through the BDR. In the ensuing investigation, BDR entry records from the venue were used to compare the number of scans before and after the witnessed breach. The dramatic difference led investigators to suggest approximately 10,550 breaches, which the solicitor for the licensee admitted to.
In the other case, 138 breaches were recorded in mid-2019. These breaches were broken down into 51 instances where staff did not ask for ID nor scan any, as well as other instances where ID was obtained, however it was not scanned through to the BDR correctly.
In both cases, the licensees pointed to staff error as being cause for the breaches, an issue that the Commission has refuted.
In one decision, it noted: “This is another occasion where on numerous occasions the licensee has sought to attribute blame to its employees, rather than acknowledging and accepting its obligation to ensure its employees were complying with their duties and obligations under the licence.”
It continues in the next point that: “It should be clear to this licensee, and all other licensees for that matter, that it is long past time that licensees seek to blame staff for failing to comply with the BDR.”
Disciplinary action for these cases was for the suspension of the liquor licences for 28 days (in the case of the 10,550 breaches) and 48 hours (in the case of the 138 breaches).
To make decisions on these two cases, the Commission considered previous complaints relating to BDR provisions, of which there have been four. They also referred to the outcome of one of these cases in 2018, where it was stated: “The provisions of the BDR must be taken seriously. This decision should serve as a warning to licensees that breaches will not be tolerated.”
Commenting on the cases, Retail Drinks Australia CEO Julie Ryan said that proper enforcement measures help these schemes to be effective and provide positive outcomes for the community.
“The cases at the NT Liquor Commission show not only that NT Licensing is taking its responsibility to enforce these measures seriously, but also that any non-compliant operators can expect to be penalised should they fail to meet their relevant obligations as a licensee,” Ryan said.
The hearing of the cases coincided with the launch of Western Australia’s BDR scheme, which is already set to be a ‘game changer.’ Ryan said the reported breaches in the NT cannot be thought about in relation to WA, and do not relate to effectiveness of either scheme.
“In the specific case of the Northern Territory (NT), the number or type of prosecutions against non-compliant licensees is not an indication of the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the BDR. No individual policy measure can be deemed effective unless it is complemented by a set of proper enforcement mechanisms,” Ryan said.
“With regard to the upcoming BDR in Western Australia (WA), it is important to note that the WA BDR is fundamentally different to that of the NT in that it is a voluntary scheme which is being adopted by industry rather than a compulsory legislative requirement as is the case in the NT. Given the early stages of the BDR in WA and the fact that it is yet to be finalised, Retail Drinks does not believe that any relevant parallels can be drawn between the two systems at this stage.”