More steps for minimising alcohol-related road accidents with passage of Intoxicating Liquor Licensing (Amendment) Bill

The government has taken a significant legislative step to minimise alcohol-related road accidents and fatalities through the passage of the Intoxicating Liquor Licensing (Amendment) Bill, in the National Assembly on Monday.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, emphasised the correlation between the Liquor Licensing Amendment Bill 2022 and the Motor Vehicle and Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2022.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC

The two pieces of legislation address drunken driving and bringing legal regulation to the consumption, use, and sale of alcohol with a specific dimension.

“This Bill introduces a series of regimes that are part of the law already in Europe and, in particular, North America…Most Guyanese would have visited New York, Toronto, and other cities in North America and would be fully aware of the strict regulatory framework and regime which exist in those countries in respect to the selling and consumption of alcohol.”

This Bill introduces some concepts into Guyana’s jurisprudence that are new to Guyana but have been utilised elsewhere.

The Intoxicating Liquor Licensing (Amendment) Bill seeks to regulate the consumption and sale of alcohol and other drugs that impair a person’s ability to drive.

“The amendments are intended to strengthen the provisions of the Act that prohibits drunkenness on premises’ licenses under the Act.”

The amendment also seeks to curtail drinking and driving by introducing the concept of the designated driver into the laws of Guyana. The purpose of the designated driver is to have safe, alternative transportation for persons who choose to imbibe.

Driving under the influence and speeding continue to be the two leading factors in road accidents and fatalities in Guyana.

The law mandates that liquor store operators use better judgment when selling alcohol to people who might exhibit behaviours frequently seen in people who are intoxicated.

The bill targets license holders, workers at the establishments, potential drivers, designated drivers, consumers at licensed premises, and the owners of the premises.

AG Nandlall noted that Section Two of the Act prohibits license holders from knowingly employing or allowing someone under 18 years to supply, sell, or assist in the sale of intoxicating liquor on the licensed premises.

The penalty for this offense has increased from $2,000 to $500,000 for the first offense.

For any subsequent offense, it has increased from $6,000 to $1 million.

Moreover, the license holder must verify the age of all persons. Persons under 16 years should not be allowed on licensed premises.

The attorney general pointed out that persons from the establishment must ensure an intoxicated driver is accompanied by a designated driver at all times. He said that should the intoxicated driver leave the premises without a designated driver, the owner of the establishment is required to inform the nearest police station.

Announcements are also to be made at regular intervals regarding drunk driving, the AG stated. He related that signs must also be displayed prominently at businesses, advising against drinking and driving.

Penalties are extended to the Dancing and Music Licences Act, which allows for the granting of temporary licenses by the Guyana Police Force for the hosting of events such as barbeques and other fundraisers. Failure to comply with the obligations will see penalties being instituted against the holder of the liquor licenses.

The fines have been increased from $4,000 to $100,000 for the first offense, while the fine for the second offense has moved from $10,000 to $200,000.

Under the new regime of fines for persons who refuse to leave the premises or a person who refuses to escort an intoxicated person from the premises, the fine for that offense has increased from $6,000 to $100,000.

Since taking office in August 2020, the PPP/C government has had an aggressive legislative agenda with the introduction of new bills, and amendments in keeping with Guyana’s growing economy.