In accordance with Section 51 of the Licensing Act 2003, the Council has received an application from Kent Police, as a responsible authority, for a review of the existing premises licence in respect of Casino Rooms, Blue Boar Lane, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1PD.
All responsible authorities have been consulted in line with the Licensing Act 2003.
Representations regarding the review application have also been received from members of the public both in support and against the review application.
The Chairman asked the parties to introduce themselves and then reminded all present of the process that would be followed as outlined in the main agenda.
Mr Charalambides requested that the press and public not be excluded from any part of the hearing. He said that there was broad agreement between the premises and the police regarding the three additional conditions that had been requested and there was no need to disclose personal information during the hearing. PC Hunt responded to the request and stated that the Police wished to be able to discuss the specific incidents.
After a short adjournment, the Panel agreed to proceed on this basis as the evidence was not in dispute and it was considered that the parties could refer to general issues/incidents without the need to discuss the information in the confidential papers. The Panel noted that it would keep the matter under review throughout the hearing.
The Senior Licensing Officer outlined the matter before the Panel, with reference to the documents contained within the main agenda pack prepared for the original hearing date of 10 May 2022 and the supplementary agenda packs nos 1, 2 and 3.
PC Hunt presented the application for a review of the premises licence on behalf of Kent Police and referred to a previous review hearing in July 2016. He said that at that hearing the police had requested the introduction of an electronic identification scanning system as a condition of entry to the premises, but this had not been granted. The police were again requesting this as a condition of the licence as they considered that it would make the Casino Rooms safer and would better help promote the licensing objectives.
PC Hunt said that Kent Police were appreciative of the many steps the premises took to promote the licensing objectives and were not seeking the revocation of the premises licence. However, they had identified concerns with how the premises were operated and were seeking additional conditions on the licence to address these and promote the licensing objectives. These were set out in the application for review and requested that all Security Industry Authority (SIA) door supervisors wore body worn video cameras in record mode for the duration of their shift; the use of an electronic identification scanning system as a condition of entry; and for two SIA door supervisors to be deployed to the front of the premises including Blue Boar Lane and Blue Boar Lane car park 30 minute prior to closing until one hour after the premises closed, or until a majority of customers had dispersed.
PC Hunt advised the Panel that several meetings between Kent Police and the Designated Premises Supervisor had taken place between October 2021 and February 2022 to try to agree a stepped approach, but it had been clear that full agreement could not be reached on the proposed additional conditions.
PC Hunt detailed a number of incidents dating back to October 2021 which had occurred at the premises that had led to the identification of areas of concern by the police. These were set out in the review application contained within the main agenda pack. The dates of the incidents referred to at the hearing were 9 October 2021; 21 November 2021; 12 December 2021; two incidents on 1 January 2022; two incidents on 3 January 2022; 30 January 2022; 6 February 2022; two incidents on 13 March 2022; 17 April 2022 and 18 April 2022.
PC Hunt observed that many of these incidents had occurred outside the premises and in the area of the Blue Boar Lane car park when the premises were closing, and customers were leaving. He suggested that, on the balance of probability, those involved in these incidents would have been customers of the Casino Rooms. He also referred to information collected from Police Officers conducting safe and well visits on 17 October 2021, which had revealed a number of persons under the age of 18 that had claimed to have attended the premises.
With reference to the incident on 3 January 2022 when two females had been assaulted on the upstairs dancefloor and multiple persons had been ejected, PC Hunt said that the police had been unable to identify the offender. Referring to the incident on 6 February when part of a customer’s ear had been bitten off in an assault on the upper dance floor, PC Hunt said that again, the identity of the suspect was not known. The police had a very good image of the suspect, taken from the Casino Rooms’ Facebook page, and the use of an ID scanning system would have enabled his identity to be ascertained through comparison of the two.
PC Hunt advised that the premises had agreed to upgrade the CCTV in some areas of the premises, adding audio recording, but would not agree to all door supervisors wearing body worn cameras and refused to consider the use of an electronic identification scanning system.
Next, PC Hunt referred to incidents on 13 March 2022 when a male customer had received a potentially life changing injury to his leg. This incident had not been included in the weekly report submitted to the police by the premises. The Panel was referred to the statement given by the victim’s mother in supplementary agenda no. 1. in which the premises said they had no knowledge of the incident. The Panel viewed CCTV footage which showed the incident on the upper dance floor, although it was noted that this was not clear due to the amount of people and the flashing lights. Another customer was seen carrying the victim to the door supervisors who were not seen to administer any first aid or aftercare or, to the knowledge of the police, call an ambulance. Instead, they left him on the doorstep without assistance. PC Hunt said this was an example of where body worn cameras may have led to better actions by the door supervisors.
The Panel also viewed CCTV footage of the incident on 1 January 2022 when it was alleged that two door supervisors assaulted a male at the front of the premises, punching him in the head and causing him to fall to the ground. PC Hunt said that this unacceptable behaviour could have escalated into a more serious incident and that, if the door supervisors had been wearing body worn cameras, it might have made them behave in a more controlled manner and would have provided a higher level of scrutiny.
PC Hunt referred to the incident of 18 April 2022 when the premises had called the police because a staff member was being held in a headlock by a customer. The premises could not provide the police with details for the alleged offender as these had not been taken and PC Hunt said that this was a missed opportunity where an electronic identification scanning system would have helped. It would also help the premises to ensure that people who had previously been barred were not admitted.
PC Hunt also referred to an incident which had occurred during the previous jubilee weekend, which was detailed in supplementary agenda no. 3 submitted by the Casino Rooms. Noting the representations in support of the premises, he expressed surprise that frequent customers to the venue had never witnessed an incident. Referring to the representations in support of the review, he drew attention to the images of young females, probably taken by the in-house photographer. He said that the identity of two of them had been established and one was 17 and the other 16. Welfare visits with their parents had been undertaken.
In conclusion, PC Hunt said that in addition to the three proposed additional conditions, the Panel might consider reducing the closing time of the premises to 2.00am. He noted that the premises had been trialling the use of body worn cameras and an electronic identification scanning system, the latter possibly being in response to the Police’s review application. With reference to the premises proposal that only five door supervisors should wear body worn cameras (two at the entrance, one on the ground floor, one on the upper floor and one in the rear smoking area), and that these should be in buffering mode and only switched to record mode when an incident occurred, PC Hunt said that the police would agree to the latter but not the former. Nor would they agree with the proposal to only scan on entry the ID of customers who appeared to be under 30 years, given the number of incidents in recent months. Kent Police were convinced that the use of a scanning system would deter potential offenders from committing an offence and would also help the premises to keep out people who had been barred.
Referring to section 27 of the Casino Rooms submission in supplementary agenda no. 2, PC Hunt advised that the Licensing SAVI award received by the premises was not from Kent Police but was a Home Office initiative. With reference to section 48 on ION Track Testing, PC Hunt said that such checks were periodically carried out by the police on entry to the premises as a deterrent. He suggested that the use of body worn cameras and an electronic identification scanning system would act as further useful deterrents. He noted the reference to the Safer Medway Partnership in section 57 and did not consider that the premises was sharing information to the full on the website. He appreciated that the 81 CCTV cameras at the venue referenced in section 62 was a large amount but noted that they had not achieved the target of 100 cameras, as stated in the minutes of the 2016 review hearing.
PC Hunt said that Kent Police firmly believed that the implementation of the conditions it proposed would undoubtedly assist in helping the premises to promote the Licensing Objectives, and in particular the prevention of crime and disorder objective.
The Chairman invited Mr Charalambides to question the Police representatives and he asked questions on the following:
The Chairman asked members of the Panel if they had any questions for the police representatives and the following responses were given:
· Body worn cameras used by the police were set to buffering mode and switched to recording mode as required. The police were willing to concede this point and amend their proposed condition.
· Electronic identification scanning systems were not 100% reliable in picking up fake IDs. However, they acted as a back up measure and deterrent.
· The conditions could be worded to build in how quickly a faulty camera or scanner needed to be repaired.
· PC Hunt could not advise how often the general public called the police about the Casino Rooms.
· Asked what the police expected the door supervisors to do when patrolling the Blue Boar Lane car park, PC Hunt said that they should not put themselves in danger; their presence might be sufficient to prevent an incident.
· PC Hunt clarified that the police were requesting that two door supervisors go outside earlier than at present to deal with incidents and act as a deterrent.
The Chairman agreed to amend the procedure so that Simon Coulson and Lucy Evans could present their representations in support of the premises next, before leaving the hearing. Simon Coulson said that he was a local resident and had been a customer of the Casino Rooms for a number of years. He had worked in hospitality and was now Director of Human Resources at a 5-star hotel. He had generally had a positive experience when visiting the venue and had never witnessed any issues, although he did not stay until 3am. He believed that the premises made every effort to meet the statutory requirements. Incidents could happen in luxury hotels and taking a guest’s passport was not necessarily a deterrent. Recent incidents could be due to people letting off steam post covid restrictions. The venue always seemed to have a good relationship with the police and Council and seemed willing to reach a compromise with the police. Their counter proposals seemed reasonable.
Mr Coulson said that, as a customer, it seemed to be a well-run venue. It was a challenging environment and if people were intent on causing trouble they would. A late-night venue was good for the area, as the alternative was more people on the streets causing trouble.
Lucy Evans said that she was an incident commander in the banking sector and she always felt safe when visiting the Casino Rooms. She had been in the Royal Navy working in a tense environment and had a second sight for trouble. She did not get this sense when at the Casino Rooms. She visited around 100 times a year and had never witnessed any incidents like those shown on the CCTV footage. She said that she would continue to recommend the venue.
Mr Charalambides asked Mr Coulson and Ms Evans what level of police visibility they saw in the town, and both responded that it was not very high.
The Chairman asked Mr Charalambides to respond to the police’s application for review. He referred to the brochure that had been circulated which gave a sense of the layout, staff direction, level of CCTV, and level of support that went on behind it. There was a first aid and welfare room and a range of policies and staff training. The weekly return in supplementary agenda no. 3 demonstrated all the issues that the premises dealt with, such as refusals, fake ID, lost and found. It also demonstrated when personal details were collected and provided to the police.
Referring to paragraph 11.20 of the S182 guidance, Mr Charalambides said that the purpose of a review was to look at the background issues, seek to establish causes of concern and then to look at remedial action to address those causes of concern. Paragraph 9.12 stated that the police should be the licensing authority’s main source of advice on matters relating to the promotion of the prevention of crime and disorder licensing objective. He expressed disappointment that fundamental aspects of police scrutiny had been missing as, in his view, this showed a clear breach of duty in that the remedial action proposed was not an appropriate or proportionate response to address the causes of concern that instigated the review. The conditions proposed by the police needed to be adjusted for a good decision to be made.
The Council’s Statement of Licensing Policy stated that there should be evidence of engagement and Mr Charalambideswas disappointed that the police had called for a review when a conversation with them had been started. The Casino Rooms had trialled and tested the proposed conditions. Paragraph 11. 7 of the guidance stated that representations should be positively tied or linked to the premises under review, rather than general concerns. The last CCTV footage shown was in Blue Boar Lane, not the Casino Rooms. Paragraph 2.21 of the guidance referred to issues beyond the immediate vicinity of the premises being matters of personal responsibility under the law. Mr Charalambides said that an increased police presence in the vicinity of the car park would help rather than trying to make good their dwindling capacity by asking for conditions for door supervisors to patrol it.
Regarding the role of licenced premises, Mr Charalambides referred to the five bullet points at paragraph 1.5 of the guidance, the third bullet point being about minimising the regulatory burden on premises. The Casino Rooms was an award-winning and responsible community venue and had recently received an email of thanks from a Detective Constable within Kent Police for assistance provided with CCTV footage. In light of this it was disappointing that the police were now seeking draconian conditions.
Turning to the three proposed additional conditions, Mr Charalambides said that data protection concerns had been highlighted to Kent Police in March, but the officers did not appear to be aware of the Information Commissioner’s guidance and had not conducted a data protection impact assessment. He stressed that body worn cameras should be kept on buffering mode and only switched to record when there was an incident. He referred to his proposed amended additional conditions set out in supplementary agenda no. 2. These proposed that up to five door supervisors must wear body cameras; an ID scanner be used for all customers who appeared to be under the age of 30; and on any night club trading night, at least two door supervisors shall be deployed to supervise the front of the premises 30 minutes prior to closing and up to one hour after closing. Mr Charalambides considered these to be appropriate and proportionate and would achieve the right balance as referred to in the Council’s policy.
PC Smuts and PC Hunt questioned MrCharalambides on the following:
The Panel questioned Mr Charalambides on the following:
The Chairman invited both parties to sum up.
PC Hunt said that there was agreement that body worn cameras and ID scanning was necessary but the extent to which they should be used was not agreed. The police considered that only scanning the ID of customers who appeared to be under age 30 was insufficient to reduce incidents of crime and disorder. The police had agreed that body worn cameras could be left in buffering mode but still wished for all door supervisors to wear them to address concerns around their behaviour, to raise standards and to act as a deterrent. He believed that their proposed additional conditions would make the premises safer and would better meet the licensing objectives.
Mr Charalambides stressed the importance of an appropriate and proportional decision that did not impose a blanket surveillance on the night-time economy. He expressed concern about the police representatives’ lack of familiarity with, or consideration of, the Information Commissioner’s guidance, and that a data protection impact assessment had not been carried out. The amended additional conditions proposed by the premises were more appropriate and balanced.
The Chairman thanked everyone for attending and advised that the Panel’s decision would be available in five working days.
1. The Panel considered all the written and CCTV evidence before it and the oral evidence presented by the applicant for the review, the legal representative of the premises and the members of the public supporting the premises.
2. In considering the conditions proposed by the police and the proposed amendments by the premises, the Panel considered the Information Commissioner’s guidance on video surveillance published in February 2022. In relation to the condition sought on body worn cameras the Panel understood that the use of such devices had the potential to be more intrusive than CCTV. The Panel considered the test in the guidance and the need to justify its use and consider whether it was necessary, proportionate and addressed a particular need. Considering the evidence in the papers the Panel was of the view that the use of the cameras would address a particular need but felt that given the intrusive nature of the cameras it would not be proportionate for them to be worn by all staff.
3. In considering the condition regarding the ID scanner it was felt that the collection of ID for those who appeared to be under 30 would assist with the licensing objective of preventing children from harm. The Panel felt that it was disproportionate to collect the data of all those attending the premises.
4. In relation to the condition relating to the SIA staff patrolling the car park it was acknowledged that this was not technically for the premises but that, as they had agreed to do so, the Panel was content to include this condition.
5. The Panel unanimously decided to add the following three addition conditions to the premises licence for the Casino Rooms, Blue Boar Lane, Rochester, Kent, ME1 1PD.
1) Body Worn Cameras
A minimum of five SIA door supervisors must wear body worn cameras, on any night club trading night, which both record visual pictures and audio. Recordings from the body worn cameras will be maintained for at least 31 days and made available for inspection when required by the police or local authority. Footage from body worn cameras will be made available to police upon request. The operation of body worn cameras by SIA door supervisors must be compliant with the Information Commissioner’s good practice guidance for using CCTV and other surveillance in clubs and bars. Door supervisors equipped with body worn cameras must be trained in when and how to operate the surveillance, typically in reaction to an alert or engagement with a scenario of concern and not as a means of continuous recording.
2) ID Scanner
All customers who appears to be under the age of 30 entering the premises must provide proof of identification (including name, photograph, and date of birth) to be scanned by an electronic identification scanning system as a condition of entry on any night club trading night. (If the scanning system malfunctions the identification documents must be photographed until the system is repaired, this period being no longer than 72 hours). The system and its operation must be compliant with the Information Commissioner’s good practice guidance for using ID scanning and other surveillance in clubs and bars.
3) SIA deployment on dispersal
On any night club trading night, at least 2 SIA door supervisors shall be deployed to supervise to the front of the premises including Blue Boar Lane and Blue Boar Lane car park thirty minutes prior to closing until one hour after the premises has closed (or until the majority of customers have dispersed, whichever is sooner). Additional door supervisors shall be deployed from the premises as and when various rooms within the premises close in order to assist with external dispersal at closing time. Door supervisors shall wear hi-visibility vests when deployed to assist with external dispersal at closing time.
6. The Panel was satisfied that the evidence before it showed that there was a need for the additional conditions set out above, and that they were appropriate and proportionate for the promotion of the licensing objectives.