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Are Nottingham’s bouncers above the law?

Bouncers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I will never forget that night”. All Adam Grant was expecting when he left for Gatecrasher was an average Monday night out with his friends. He ended it with an arm so badly broken that he wasn’t able to leave hospital for five days. A bouncer had attacked him and his friends in a CCTV blind spot.

“The bouncer picked me up and flung me against the curve of the road outside the club and then continued to slap my female friend around the face”. Adam, a second year Business Management and Accounting student, was the Derby Hall JCR president at the time. There was no CCTV evidence of the attack so the police decided not to further investigate the case.

I remember being strangled as I returned to consciousness. I thought he was going to kill me.

Adam has suffered a number of physical repercussions from the attack and lives with 12 metal pins in his left arm. “I have two huge scars on my forearm,” he adds, “As a member of the first University football team, and a keen golfer, my sport was affected immensely”.

Impact has heard from over 100 students who have been witnesses to or victims of violent, sexist and racist attacks by bouncers in the city centre. One third of students admit they have felt personally threatened by door staff on nights out.

The following alleged attacks occurred in SU-endorsed venues and as did 77% of all the incidents reported by students to Impact. While many of these alleged attacks would be considered illegal, none of the incidents brought to light in this investigation have been heard by a court and none of the clubs in which the attacks took place have been reprimanded by the Students’ Union.

Sexism and Racism

A number of students spoke to Impact about alleged incidents of sexism and racism. One student describes her experience of trying to get into Rock City: “I forgot my ID and the bouncer implied that giving him oral sex would get me in”. Oli Kay, a third year mechanical engineering student, believes that Oceana bouncers singled him out because of his ethnicity.

Oli says he was told he couldn’t enter because he was wearing trainers. “At the time I was wearing black and white trainers and everyone – literally everyone in the queue was wearing trainers.”

The bouncer implied that giving him oral would get me in.

Oli adds: “Everyone else had seen what was going on, and it was quite obvious I was the only black person in the queue”. This is just one of Oli’s reported experiences of Oceana door staff. In our interview he recalled one further account of a similar nature and says he no longer enjoys going out in Nottingham.

Violence and humiliation

“Some doormen are great, some are not great,” says Andy Hoe, Director of Student Nightclubs Limited. His club, Ocean, received the least complaints in our investigation and Andy attributes the venue’s good reputation to his hands-on approach to security. “I try and vet our [bouncers] down to whether I think they will be suitable for dealing with students as opposed to ‘locals’ – as the two do tend to need treating differently. If my agency sends them and I don’t think they’re right I tell them not to send them again, it’s that simple”.

While Ocean came out of the survey well, other SU-endorsed clubs fared much worse. Jake Jackson, a third-year Law student, was using the toilet in Oceana when he was dragged out and repeatedly smashed against the clubs’ walls. He says, “I had no idea what was going on and was in a bit of a shock as I was still urinating. I was trying to find out why I was being personally assaulted, but they told me nothing. It was all very undercover and between themselves”.

I felt really, really distressed, humiliated, shocked.

It was only when Jake was taken into the manager’s back room that he was informed that the bouncer had seen a shadow under his cubicle and had suspected him of taking drugs. According to the manager, his rough treatment was provoked by a lack of cooperation – he would not allow his hands and nose to be searched for cocaine.

This attack had a profound emotional impact on Jake. “I felt really, really distressed, humiliated, shocked. I was frozen, I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t believe it was happening. It seemed almost like a ridiculous nightmare”.

Jake’s ordeal was very public, but Impact has discovered that it is common for students to be taken to areas without CCTV and away from fellow students who could act as witnesses. Tom Chance, a 3rd year student, was attempting to help out a fellow student who was being escorted out by Rock City bouncers, only to find himself subject to off-camera violence. “I went over to persuade them that this guy had done nothing wrong,” he says, “A few then took me outside through a fire escape door and down some stairs. Then at the bottom they kicked and hit me. I remember being on the floor.”

When Tom reported it to the police he found that “they could not do anything, as I couldn’t remember who had done it, and there was no CCTV footage”. An anonymous participant in our survey retold a similar confrontation also at Rock City, describing how the bouncer allegedly grabbed him by the neck, dragged him a short way up the street and into a dark alcove.

They kicked and hit me. I remember being on the floor.

“He threatened me further and told me to fuck off home,” the student says. “I got some support from two other students who had seen the incident and we called the police. They came and essentially told us to go home while they checked the CCTV footage that handily didn’t record the area I was taken to”.

Tom Chance’s experience was unnervingly brutal. “I remember being strangled as I returned to consciousness. I thought he was going to kill me.” The second year geography student was taken into a fire exit in Rock City before three bouncers assaulted him. He ended the night in hospital. “I also had x-rays that night,” he tells Impact, “and I had internal bleeding in both ears”.

When Impact approached Andrew Smith, the managing director of Ipso Facto (the company that runs Crisis) about CCTV blind spots, he commented: “Neither club nor customers want bad security staff so it’s in both parties’ interests that CCTV is good and incidents are properly reported. Rock City use contractors for security like most venues and the event [Tom’s] took place a while back. Rock City’s security team is run by an entirely different company now as of February.” Impact contacted Rock City directly regarding the allegations but had not received a response at the time of going to print.

The Campaign: Amos Teshuva – “Blind spots and CCTV in nightclubs are a really major issue”

While Rock City have taken measures to confront the problem, the issue of blind spots still prevails. Without video evidence, the police have little to work with when following up any allegation. Damningly, only 10% of respondents involved in incidents with bouncers were aware that CCTV cameras operated on the premises.

In light of the evidence, Impact is working with the Students’ Union to establish a Safe Club Campaign to increase the range of camera coverage in clubs in accordance with a new safety accreditation scheme, which would also make complaints of abuse easier to register. This would ensure incidents with door staff are recorded, reported and crucially would give police evidence to prosecute.

The CCTV footage handily didn’t record the area I was taken to.

There is currently no regulation regarding the percentage of floorspan which must be covered by cameras. Instead, the Police Licensing Team work with clubs on a case-by-case basis to implement CCTV, footage from which must be stored for 30 days.

While CCTV doesn’t thoroughly cover all venues, the problem is exacerbated by the sheer number of bouncers out at night. Some estimates put the ratio of door staff to police working in the city at 10:1. The scale of the local industry is indicated by statistics revealed to Impact by the Security Industry Authority. The SIA, which licenses and trains all bouncers, says there are currently 3,035 ‘door supervisors’ working in Nottinghamshire and that the door staff sector makes up nearly 60% of all security staff in the county.

SU president, Amos Teshuva, has pledged his support for the campaign. “Blind spots and CCTV in nightclubs are a really major issue. The Students’ Union will do what it can to support Impact and URN to be able to deliver this campaign. We’re really excited about it”. URN will be broadcasting a special episode of their Pulse news show about bouncers on 13th June, focusing on the difficulty students face when reporting their complaints.

Nottingham’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, Chris Cutland, told Impact: “Naturally, we will support campaigns that are designed to make people safer and we are aware that the Force has been working with venues to constantly improve where and how these establishments use CCTV cameras.”

A third of students have felt personally threatened by door staff on a night out

When Impact confronted Oceana with the broad range of accusations directed at their security staff, they issued the following response: “The club has a robust search and security procedure in place including the use of over 93 CCTV cameras. We have a team of fully trained and regulated door staff and work hard to ensure that they operate responsibly.” Oceana have also lent the campaign their support: “The safety and security of our customers is our main priority and we welcome the launch of this campaign to further improve safety for clubbers in Nottingham.”

Director of the Nottingham Business Improvement District, David Lucas, said: “We are grateful that the matters have recently been brought to our attention. We will ensure that the details of the issues that you have alerted us to are passed to the operators of the three venues so that they can carry out their own investigation and take appropriate action.”

Impact will be pushing the Safe Club Campaign forward in weeks to come. The reported attacks on Adam, Oli, Tom and Jake all took place in clubs which were, at the time, affiliated with the Students’ Union. But their stories only scrape the surface: most accounts go untold. Dark alcoves in Nottingham venues have become untraceable zones where the people employed to keep you safe on a night out can do whatever they want to you, whenever they like. While it is a minority of bouncers whose behaviour is at stake here, the effect they have on the lives of their victims is immeasurable and must end. If bouncers are untouchable, students and locals should be too.

If you have been the victim of an attack by a bouncer, Impact advises you to contact Nottinghamshire Police and the Students’ Union as soon as possible.

Emily Shackleton, Will Hazell

Pseudonyms used. Any replication of real students’ names is coincidental.

 

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