The Hearing heard overwhelming evidence cataloguing breaches of the premises licence, lies and incompetence. Both the Police and the Committee concluded that Benn Wilson cannot be trusted to hold a licence. The Committee revoked the licence on the grounds of concerns relating to the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety and prevention of anti-social behaviour and public nuisance
|Yet another apology from Benn Wilson?|
The Police Evidence
PC Cruickshank gave evidence for the Metropolitan Police and provided a catalogue of ways in which the licence had been breached. We've tried below to relate the points made to the relevant licensing objectives
Prevention of crime and disorder / Public safety
- It was confirmed that the post mortem established that Kelvin Easton had been stabbed in the chest by a knife - three times (ie he was NOT stabbed by a broken champagne bottle as alleged by club management)
- A security policy was in place however the way it was operated and breached meant that it failed to detect the knife which was brought into the club.
- There was no CCTV in the club however the CCTV had NOT been stolen. Benn Wilson had lied to the Licensing Officer, the Investigating Officer and the First Hearing of the Licensing Sub-Committee about the so-called theft of the CCTV by a member of the public. The absence of a working CCTV system in the club at the time of the murder is due to the fact that the hard drive and monitor had both been removed in mid-March due to a non-payment of a debt (see yesterday's post on this blog for more details - Murder Club should NOT have been open!)
- Dante Williams, the Manager of the Club, concocted a story to explain the missing CCTV on the instructions of Benn Wilson
- Officers have stated that they are confident that if the CCTV system had been in place, the whole incident leading up to the stabbing would have been captured on camera
- Several customers alleged they entered the building without having their ID checked and scanned. (When questioned Mr Wilson subsequently alleged that all customers were checked and that ALL the witnesses were lying)
- A CCTV video (from a street camera) had been shown to the members of the Committee "in camera" prior to the start of the meeting. This showed various timed episodes which clearly indicated that the Licence was breached on a number of counts including
- people entering by the side entrance rather than through the "security controlled" entrance at the front
- people entering the club after it should have been shut
- mysterious packages being passed into the club
- The licensing hours were breached. The phone call to the Police occurred at 04.32am - which is well over an hour after the club should have been closed. At 2am the clocks moved forward to 3am and the club should have then closed. The club's assumption that they didn't lose an hour from their licensing due to the clocks going forward was an error. They had not checked the situation with Licensing.
- It was noted that advertisements for the event indicated that it finished at 5am which was well outside the approved licensing period (ie shut by 3.30am) and misled people as to what they were paying for
In mid February, at a regular Police/Council Meeting with the Club it became apparent that Dante Williams, the Manager of the Club, was unaware of what the licensing conditions of the club were. He was given a copy and asked to study them and discuss them with Benn Wilson before the next meeting.
So far as the Police were concerned many vital licensing conditions had been breached. The most important ones were that
- there was no CCTV working
- the risk assessment had not been completed and made available to the Police as required
- the licensing hours had been breached
- the security was very slack on the night in question and the security systems in place did not detect the knife which was brought into the club
The murder would not have happened if the event had closed at the appropriate time.In addition the licensee and manager concocted the story about the stolen CCTV and repeated it to the police, the press and the public
The overall conclusion was that Mr Wilson could not be trusted.
The Police also noted that they had never been called to pick up any knives, guns or drugs for disposal. The Licensee and Head of Security subsequently confirmed that they had never ever confiscated any knives, guns or drugs since the Licence had been approved.
The residents' perspective
Brief representations were made by Ward Councillors and Residents Associations which largely focused on the Public Nuisance aspect of the club's activities and the behaviour of its customers in local streets - details can be found in the written representations made to the Hearing.
Those speaking on behalf of residents were: Cllr Joshua Peck (Bow West), Cllr Rachael Saunders (Mile End East), Mark Taylor (Chair of MERA) and Stuart McCran (Chair of Eaton Terrace Residents Association).
Mark Taylor, Chair of Mile End Residents Association (MERA), said
It’s very clear to us that the club should have been SHUT on the night Kelvin Easton was killed. If the licensee and manager had acted responsibly in the interests of public safety then the murder of a young man would not have happened.and
Benn refers (in his revised statement) to the relationship we had with him which was at times a positive relationship but now in hindsight I see we were fed a lot of words – a lot of lip service - a lot of window dressing and I am personally feeling as if I've been strung along. We can now see what has been really going on - a lack of competence to run a nightclub - a lack of compliance with the licence requirements - a licensee and a manager who both totally lack credibility as people to run licensed premises.Stuart McCran, Chair of ETRA, referenced the practical operation of the "Broke" business model and its impact on the local community
They have broken their promises about car parking to the local community and the night wardens have all but disappeared. They've broken the business model they promised the magistrates.... It's now gone back to the old days of the Club E3 which had a violent and dangerous history and we certainly don't want that.The Licensee
Benn Wilson was then given the opportunity to respond. He spoke to his revised statement which said
I sincerely regret making this incorrect statement (about the theft of the CCTV) due to panic but I gratefully ask to please consider the extreme pressure and circumstances that led me to waste your time before you negatively judge me. Although I do not believe my actions would have changed the tragic outcome of the evening, I am aware I have contradicted one of the conditions on the licence albeit the circumstances that led to this were not through irresponsible choice but by financial defaultThe general conclusion of those listening to him was that Wilson simply didn't "get it" and was in complete denial over the fact that he could have prevented the death. He was full of glib words about things he would do in the future - but we had heard that all before! Residents found it particularly galling to listen to Wilson treating the fact he lied to the Police, Councillors, Press and the public as simply a matter of wasting police time. There was no recognition whatsoever that he passed up on two huge opportunities to prevent the death of a young man - by not opening the club because he couldn't comply with the Licence and by sticking to the licensing hours and shutting the club on time.
His designated Head of Security (Saber Security) also added some comments - having given notice to his client that he wouldn't like some of them. One comment was that he had some considerable sympathy with the residents comments! Another was
If you ain't got the money to do it, then don't do it. Bail outWe assume he was referencing Wilson's apparent inability to finance the club, pay his bills on time and run a properly conducted operation.
The Committee's questions
Members of the Committee - Councillor Kabir Ahmed, Councillor Zara Davis and Councillor David Snowdon (Chair) asked various intelligent questions about specific aspects raised by the Police and those representing residents before retiring to consider their decision.
It was very clear to us that the Committee gave some considerable weight to the perspective represented by the many written representations submitted by local residents and the large number (25+) of local residents who had turned up for the Hearing. Interestingly Wilson's view was expressed at one point as "if the residents are truthful...." it would be seen that the real state of affairs was according to what he said, not what residents said in letters or verbal presentations!
The decision - Licence REVOKED!
The Chair summed up the Committee's decision at the end by saying
The Committee has listened carefully to both sides.Now we wait to see if Wilson appeals this decision!
On balance we find that:
- the Club is in breach of licensing conditions 9, 10 and 13
- the security protocol was not operating properly
- Mr Wilson has admitted that he was in breach of licence conditions 5 and 11
A young man had been fatally stabbed at the club by a knife brought into the club which was not detected......
The Committee is unable to accept that Mr Wilson will honour his obligations as a Licencee.
The Licence is revoked on the grounds of concerns relating to the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety and prevention of anti-social behaviour and public nuisance
The Mile End Residents Association will be sending a copy of this blog post and the Committee's decision to District Judge Jacqueline Comyns who granted Ben Wilson the Premises Licence at the Magistrates Court where he appealed the Licensing Authority's original decision to refuse the licence on 27th August 2009.
NOTE: The detailed Licence conditions breached and referenced in the Committee's decision are as follows
5. CCTV Conditions:Links:
(a) A digital CCTV system shall be installed to cover all areas where dancing will take place. All cameras shall continue to record whilst the premises are open to the public and the video recordings shall be kept for a minimum of five weeks with time and date stamping
(b) tape recordings shall be made available to an authorised officer or police officer, together with facilities for viewing;
(c) the recordings for the preceding two days shall be made available immediately upon request. Recordings outside this period shall be made available on 24 hours notice
9. Search wands, search arch and club scan will be in place at all times at the premises
10. All persons to be searched upon entry to the premises
11. There shall be a last entry time at the premises of 02.00 hours Thursday to Saturday inclusive
13. There shall be an electronic search arch installed and an elctric serach wand used to search every customer entering the premises. Installation of either device shall be to the satisfaction of the police and the Licensing Authority
MERA News Blog:
will NOT be tolerated in Mile End