Court backs denial of licence to 'drug disco'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 January, 2005, 12:00am

The Licensing Authority was correct to take police concerns about drug-taking and other illegal activity into account when it refused a licence to one of Hong Kong's biggest discos, a court ruled yesterday.

The 348 Disco and Karaoke in Yau Ma Tei was refused a licence as a place of public entertainment in March 2003 after police told the authority it had attracted their 'unfavourable attention'.

But in November that year the Municipal Services Appeal Board upheld an appeal from owner Sunny Great Limited, saying the authority should not have looked outside the 'public order and safety' issues stated in the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance.

Ruling yesterday on a judicial review sought by the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Food and Environmental Hygiene, the Court of First Instance said the appeal board was wrong in law.

'We do not read the word 'disorder' to be restricted only to matters of orderly conduct and general safety,' Mr Justice Michael Hartmann said in the judgment.

'Behaviour which violates the law, such as drug trafficking, or which is of a riotous nature, such as behaviour which causes a nuisance to others, is behaviour falling under the definition of 'disorder'.' He sent the issue back to the appeal board for a decision in accordance with the court's interpretation.

The court heard the Licensing Authority had been told by the Commissioner of Police that there were 'persistent dangerous drugs activities' at the disco.

Refusing the licence, the authority referred to 172 arrests for drug offences in 2002 and 34 nuisance or hoax calls made to the police alleging fighting and assault at the disco in 2003.

Mr Justice Hartmann said while the authority might have no power to impose moral values on the entertainment at such premises, 'it goes too far to say that the ordinance permits no other matters to be considered'.