The Metropolitan Police have again justified the use of
Form 696, implying a strong link between gigs and shootings. Feargal Sharkey
has responded with accusations that the police are abusing event licensing
Interviewed on BBC Radio 4 Today this morning (see 'listen' link and transcript
below), Chief Superintendent Richard Martin, responsible for Form 696,
'... look at last year, [in] 2007 there were 36 shootings linked to licensed
premises, 2008 there were 9. You know this is a tactic that works. It's
something that's really successful. We very rarely close premises, but
what it allows us to do is work with the promoter and provide a safe environment,
and for me, you know, what price do you put on someone's safety?'
But the crucial question of whether there is any significant link between
violent crime and live music was not pursued by Today presenter Evan Davis,
who seemed inadequately briefed. The link between disorder and big screen
football in bars is far stronger, and yet the government kept this form
of entertainment out of event licensing. This was not mentioned.
Davis went on to interview Feargal Sharkey, but appeared to think it reasonable
that licensees should face a potential criminal prosecution if full contact
details of performers, dates of birth and styles of music are not disclosed
to the police 14 days in advance of gigs. He made no mention of the Met's
definition of qualifying events which is so broad it captures a harpist
in a hotel lobby.
Sharkey made some good points: '... why are they isolating musicians in
this case? And are they now suggesting that the next step will be that
all Premier League football players playing in the capital city will have
to provide their name, address, date of birth and contact telephone numbers
to be screened by the Met Police at least 14 days of that match taking
But neither Sharkey, nor Davis nor Chief Superintendent Martin appeared
to understand that the mandatory risk assessments already required under
health and safety legislation cover all the risks that might arise from
putting on live music, including crime and disorder risks.
The petition calling on the Prime Minister to scrap Form 696 has over
13,700 signatures and is number 10 in the list of over 4000 petitions
on the Number 10 website:
BBC Radio 4 Today - Form 696 - Friday 23 January 2009 - 7.21-7.26am approx.
Davis: Well I'm holding in my hand a Metropolitan Police Event
Assessment Form, it's called number 696, and it's aimed at people engaging
in the dangerous activity of playing live music [sound of pop music].
That's the sound of 'grime' music there, Tinchy Strider, Wiley and Chipmunk.
Well, some in the live music industry are annoyed at the police for trying
to get venues to fill out the four-page form which asks for details of
the performers and the type of music played. In one version it even asks
which ethnic group might be attending the gig. Well, we'll hear the complaints
of Feargal Sharkey, the Chief Executive of UK Music in a moment, but here's
what Detective Superintendent Richard Martin told the programme about
why Form 696 is a good idea.
Martin: As with any kind of risk assessment or process,
the more information that you can have of an event allows you to have
a much more er accurate er assessment of what's going on and, er, you
know this is not about any particular type of music, it's just asking
what type of music are you playing, you know, what's the kind of audience,
where are you playing, when are you playing, who's likely to be there,
and I think you know you look at last year, 2007 there were 36 shootings
linked to licensed premises, 2008 there were 9. You know this is a tactic
that works. It's something that's really successful. We very rarely close
premises, but what it allows us to do is work with the promoter and provide
a safe environment, and for me, you know, what price do you put on someone's
Davis: What price on safety. Well that's the police view
on Form 696. Feargal Sharkey, singer, former singer, and er Chief Executive
of UK Music is with me. So what is wrong with this form? I know you're
cutting up quite a big fuss about it. It's just a form. It just asks you
for the name of the performers, it does ask for their date of birth, contact
telephone numbers. What's the big deal?
Sharkey: Er well, I think everybody would agree that
something like the promotion of, the prevention of crime and disorder
and public safety are incredibly important. And I've absolutely no doubt
that's exactly why Parliament mandated that when you apply for a licence
to either sell alcohol or provide live music you have to demonstrate on
that application form exactly what it is you intend to do to prevent crime
and disorder and promote public safety. Under the er system mandated by
Parliament the local police have then 28 days to object to that application
should they think you are not doing enough, and request that the local
authority attach further conditions to your licence to help you. The simple
truth is, it leads me to jump to the simple conclusion that 21 local authorities
in London and the Metropolitan Police aren't happy or don't think that
Davis: So this is extra on top of your normal sort of...
Sharkey: Exactly. And...
Davis: Your, you think that it aimed at particular groups
and particular kinds of music.
Sharkey: Well the curious bit was in its original form
that question 'What type of', 'Are there any ethnic minorities going to
be attending this event, if so please state which'.
Davis: Right, I mean they have removed that, they have removed
that question haven't they. I think that was after you started cutting
Sharkey: They have indeed and they have now replaced it with
'Please state the target audience', and I just have a nagging suspicion
that white middle class professionals might get a slightly different reaction...
Davis: Actually it says 'Who is the target audience,
include here if birthday party', erm of course I means it's unusual I
Sharkey: Well I'm pleased to see that the Met Police
have got so much to do in their lives that they think a birthday party
might be some kind of a risk to the fabric of society.
Davis: But have any events been unable to proceed because
of this form?
Sharkey: The short answer is yes.
Sharkey: And we are aware of one, and ironically enough
it was a local councillor trying to do something to help young people
in his local area who'd organised an event on a Saturday afternoon involving
young unsigned local musicians at which they have a maximum audience of
500 people, and the police objected, and I do have a copy of the letter,
because the young musicians refused to hand over their name, their address
and their date of birth, and their contact telephone numbers, and, to
quote the Metropolitan Police, they objected most strongly to that application.
Davis: Because they wouldn't hand over their dates of birth and
Sharkey: Correct. I think...
Davis: I suppose it could be seen as an intrusion of
civil liberties to be asking for that information, but it's not a terribly
onerous thing to ask. It's not like asking for their sort of, you know...
Sharkey: Well I think it's a curious thing because why
are they isolating musicians in this case? And are they now suggesting
that the next step will be that all Premier League football players playing
in the capital city will have to provide their name, address, date of
birth and contact telephone numbers to be screened by the Met Police at
least 14 days of that match taking place? [Davies: Well...] Quite clearly
the things like that are potentially an issue. Quite what that's got to
do with the musicians and why the Metropolitan Police think they can abuse
an existing piece of legislation like this I think I will be discussing
with the licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe and the local government association
at some length.
Davis: You should see the risk assessment forms we have
to fill out here [Sharkey laughs]. Feargal Sharkey thank you very much
Sharkey: Thank you.