Ken Bodfish's assault on the magistracy (Letters, March 10) is totally ill-founded. What is more, he wrote in his capacity as a member of the police authority, rather than as an individual.

All magistrates have to put aside their own subjective views when sitting in court. The magistrates sitting on the two-day appeal hearing concerning the lap-dancing club were no exception. They were not asked to consider moral grounds but rather they were required to have regard to the guidance issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Statement of Licensing Policy issued by Brighton and Hove City Council (both these documents are available on the web).

The court is also bound to consider the licensing objectives: 1) the prevention of crime and disorder; 2) public safety; 3) the prevention of public nuisance; and 4) the protection of children from harm.

The Licensing Act 2003 requires those bodies exercising their functions under it in respect of an application to adopt a permissive approach. The court can refuse an appeal only if to grant the licence would have an adverse or negative impact on the licensing objectives.

The court is required to consider whether conditions could be attached to the licence to promote those objectives.

Decisions must be based on evidence, not on prejudice or emotion. The council offered insufficient evidence that the existing lap-dancing clubs of this type caused problems.

In allowing the appeal the magistrates granted the licence subject to a number of conditions, which were felt necessary to promote the licensing objectives.

Magistrates are most certainly accountable and not least through the Appeal Courts. We have to follow guidelines rigorously and at all times behave with dignity and respect, having due regard for the law, supported as we are by highly professional legal advisers.

We can make judgments only on evidence put before us. The fact is that in this city we have more than 230 trained magistrates who devote their own time to ensuring that all citizens are treated fairly and robustly without fear or favour. We are representative of the community in which we live.

Our adult courts are open to the public: I invite Ken Bodfish to come and see real justice in action so that in future he can ensure his observations are based on fact.

  • Juliet Smith, Chairman Sussex (Central) Bench, The Magistrates' Courts, Edward Street, Brighton