29 September 2023, London: After a successful term as the Independent Complaints Panel Chair, Nicola Williams, stands down (effective 30 September 2023) from the role to focus on her wider portfolio of work as a part-time Crown Court Judge and Penguin published author. Deputy Chair Rachel Childs will take over as interim Chair until a new Chair is formally appointed.
Nicola joined the Panel in 2020 shortly after the Sixth Edition of the Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic came into force. She has overseen the introduction and application of the amendments in the Code, including the setting of precedents with the new serious or widespread offence rule. These cases included Quickie Wine, Original Nuttah, Fok Hing Gin, Unshaven Maiden and King William – which were upheld across a range of offences due to the sexualisation of women, presentation of mental health, use of profanity and overt reference to sectarianism.
Nicola has championed the development of the Panel and has overseen the hiring of five new lay Panel members. With their inclusion they now represent the most diverse Panel in its history reflecting a broad cross-section of society including experience in marketing, licensing, public health, intellectual property and youth culture.
Nicola Williams said: “I am proud of the work of the Panel which during my time has carefully and fairly made decisions on alcohol products ensuring the proper regulation of the industry. It has been important to me to ensure that there is a broad diversity of thought, and background represented on the Panel, and I leave behind a very strong Panel with wide expertise to deal with complaints. This breadth of experience has been especially important in our discussions about serious offence and has ensured that an appropriate balance has been struck in setting clear and consistent precedents. I wish the Panel and the interim Chair Rachel Childs well and I will now watch the decisions with interest.”
In response to the announcement, Matt Lambert, CEO of the Portman Group said: “We sincerely thank Nicola Williams for her service and work with the Independent Complaints Panel over her term as Chair. During her time, she has overseen a number of landmark, precedent setting decisions and also recruited several new members to strengthen the experience and effectiveness of the Panel.
“We have very much benefited from her insight, and we wish her continued success in her varied and impressive legal and writing career. It has been a pleasure to work with Nicola and on behalf of the Panel and Portman Group we wish her well for the future.”
Notes to editors
- A spokesperson is available for interviews upon request.
- The Portman Group was formed in 1989. It is the alcohol industry regulator and social responsibility body. It has over 160 Code signatories from producers, retailers and membership bodies.
- The Portman Group is funded by 19 member and associate member companies: Asahi UK Ltd; Aston Manor Cider; Bacardi; Beam Suntory; Brown-Forman; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Campari; C&C; Diageo GB; Edrington UK; Heineken UK; Mark Anthony Brands International; Mast-JäegermeisterUK; Molson Coors Beverage Company; Pernod Ricard UK; Punch Pubs & Co; SHS Drinks; Thatchers’; and Treasury Wine Estates.
- The Code of Practice for the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks was first published in 1996. In 2021, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Code. The Code seeks to ensure that alcohol is promoted in a socially responsible way, only to those aged 18 and over, and in a way that does not appeal particularly to those who are vulnerable. The Code has helped create an industry that works effectively within the context of a self-regulatory model, while encouraging design, innovation and creativity. This has been done in an effective, responsive and inexpensive way.
- Effectively – over 170 products have been amended or removed from the market. Many hundreds more have been helped to adhere to the Code before appearing on shelves through the support of the Advisory Service;
- Responsively – there have been five updates to the Code over 25 years responding to changes in public attitudes and expanding its reach; all without recourse to Government or Parliamentary time;
- Inexpensively – the leading members of the industry are currently funding the model for all to be protected at no cost to the public purse.