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Issuing a BOPA

The local authority can issue a BOPA for a single performance or for a series of performances over a given period; this is normally up to one year.

If the approval is given for a period of time it should be a condition that the organisation provides the local authority with details of each performance/rehearsal including the dates, times and location, the names of the chaperones together with the number of children taking part including gender split and age range, at least 21 days in advance of the first performance unless the local authority has agreed a shorter notice period.

If satisfied with the proposed arrangements the local authority should issue an approval to perform in respect of the specified performance.

As stated previously, a child does not need to live within the boundaries of the local authority issuing the BOPA. Should they become aware of this the issuing local authority does not need the 'permission' of another authority for their children to be included. It does not matter if a child has performed on 4 days or more in the last 6 months, they can still be included in a BOPA.

Example 1

Amy has had 2 licences issued in the last 3 months and has worked for 2 days on a TV drama and filmed a TV commercial for 1 day. The local theatre group she is a member of are putting on a production for 4 days and have been granted body of persons' approval. Amy can perform under the BOPA.

However if a child has performed under a BOPA the number of days will count as performance days.

Example 2

Jake played 'Oliver' in the production put on by the local group where he is a member. The group were granted a BOPA and Jake performed for 3 days. An enquiry was received from another organisation who wanted to film with Jake for 2 days and as he was not being paid and was not missing school (filming was at the weekend) they wanted to make use of the 4 day rule exemption. In this instance, the days Jake performed under the BOPA must be counted and an exemption cannot be applied, the organisation must apply for a licence.

Licensing officers may question how they can apply the '4 day rule' exemption if they are not notified of the individual children performing under a BOPA. It is not for local authorities to police the '4 day rule' and licensing officers should refer to 'the four day rule'. Paragraph 4 of the section states:

It is a legal requirement to apply for a licence when one is required and any person who causes or procures any child to do anything in contravention of the licensing requirement commits an offence and may be subject to a fine, imprisonment or both. If a producer is relaying on the four day rule as a basis for not applying for a licence, they should have reasonable grounds for believing the child has not performed on more than 3 days in the previous 6 months.

Clearly, the onus is on the producer to ensure they make reasonable enquiries and best practice examples are given within the section. Licensing officers need to ensure their form of exemption is explicit and makes absolutely clear to the producer what enquiries they should make and they likely consequences should they fail to do so.

BOPA decisions

As has already been stated it is at the discretion of the local authority whether to issue a BOPA and they can place any conditions on the approval to ensure the wellbeing of children.

A BOPA can be revoked if the organisation fails to meet the agreed conditions and if the local authority has concerns about the safety and wellbeing of the children involved in the performance.

If a local authority decides not to grant a BOPA it is best practice they write to the organisation stating the reasons for refusal.