Pub’s licence revoked after illegal immigrant found
A Wolverhampton pub which employed an illegal immigrant to work as a chef has had its licence revoked.
Members of Wolverhampton Council’s licensing sub committee imposed the strictest penalty within their powers on The Swan, in Lower Street, Tettenhall, following a hearing on Tuesday.
A review into the licence of The Swan, owned by Punch Taverns, was requested by the Home Office and backed by West Midlands Police and the council’s licencing team.
The committee was told that, on December 11 last year, immigration officers swooped on The Swan acting on an anonymous tip off.
There they found four members of staff, including general manager Russell Moreton, working there.
One of them, who was working as a chef, was found to have no legal right to work in the UK and he was arrested and detained for questioning.
He admitted his take home pay was £200, in cash, and had worked there for up to six months – confirmed by Mr Moreton when he was questioned.
The Home Office, licensing and West Midlands Police said the incident represented a serious breach of the licensing objective of preventing crime and disorder.
Sgt Steph Reynolds, of West Midlands Police, said: “We have an experienced tenant, who knows the law but has failed to comply with the law.
“It was only highlighted through the anonymous tip-off. Had we not had that, who is to say whether that would have continued or not.
“The person was employed for a considerable amount of time without proper checks. It was a failing.”
The Home Office civil penalties team had also hit Mr Moreton with a fine of £15,000, later reduced to £7,000, as a result of the incident.
Solicitor Matthew Phipps, representing Punch Taverns, said the company owned around 1,300 venues across the country and this was the first time a review had been called due to a breach of immigration law.
He said Mr Moreton was the tenant who had entered into a property and legal agreement with the company to run The Swan and two other pubs in their portfolio and was responsible for hiring staff through his company Spirit Pubs Wolverhampton Ltd.
Mr Moreton had seen the driving licence and bank cards of the worker in question and had been waiting for his accountants to inform him of national insurance information.
Mr Moreton admitted he was at fault and said he has hired a new company to vet all employees and ensure they have a legal right to work in Britain.
Mr Phipps said: “There was a clear failing here, we do not dispute that. But this is not a revocation case. What is noticeably absent from the representations in the application for a review are any other concerns about the premises.
“Mr Moreton fully engaged and cooperated with immigration. This is an isolated incident.
“The company could have terminated its agreement with Mr Moreton but, having heard his mitigation, we take the view this failing does not merit a draconian outcome.”
Punch Taverns has 21 days to lodge an appeal against the revocation decision.
By Gurdip Thandi, Local Democracy Reporter
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