Former Harpenden pub landlord wins apology after music licence court case

Gibraltar Castle

Gibraltar Castle - Credit: Archant

The UK’s music licensing company has apologised to the former landlord of a historic Harpenden pub, after it incorrectly took him to court and hit him with a £1,600 legal bill.

Phonographic Performance Ltd (PPL) brought a case against Hamish Miller, former proprietor of the Fuller’s owned Gibraltar Castle in Lower Luton Road, which went before one of the country’s top judges, Mrs Justice Proudman.

On January 22, she banned him from playing recorded music at the pub, which dates back to 1799, and any other premises he runs until he brings his licence up to date.

The judge also ordered him to pay £1,607 in legal costs run up by PPL in taking the matter to court.

The ban and legal bill were imposed in his absence, as Hamish was not present in court, and was not represented by counsel.

And the reason for this has left PPL red-faced.

Hamish was not in court as, apart from the fact he was unaware of the proceedings, he was not the pub landlord at the time a PPL inspector visited the Gibraltar in early October.

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The inspector was in the pub on October 2, where he heard several tracks played.

Fiona Clark, counsel for PPL, told the judge that solicitors had sent letters to the premises warning Hamish that playing in public of sound recordings without PPL’s licence or permission constituted an infringement of its copyright. It asked him to get a licence.

However Hamish knew nothing of this until recently, when the ban and legal bill was publicised.

He told the Herts Advertiser: “I haven’t been with the pub since early September. It has been under new management since October 1. I don’t have anything to do [now] with Fuller’s. I’ve spoken to PPL, and they have been very apologetic, and very helpful.

“Mistakes happen – no one died or got hurt. It’s their legal costs, so they will not try to retrieve that from me.

“I was running the pub from 2005 until early September, as a tenant landlord, leasing it from Fuller’s.”

Christine Geissmar, operations director of PPL, said: “After receiving no response to numerous attempts to contact the premises, PPL issued legal proceedings against Mr Miller, trading as Gibraltar Castle pub, on November 13, 2015, for playing recorded music without the correct licence in place.”

She explained that he had been listed on council records since 2005 as being the person responsible for the day to day running of the pub, and is “still currently registered as the designated premises supervisor.

“In keeping with these records, PPL served papers in accordance with the correct court processes.”

Christine said that although the organisation received no response to the issue of proceedings, it “obtained judgement against Mr Miller.

“We have since spoken to the head licensee of the premises, Fullers Brewery, who has confirmed the council register has not been updated correctly. Therefore PPL will not be enforcing the judgement. PPL has been in touch with Mr Miller to make clear that no further actions will be carried out against him in connection with the proceedings.”