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Lambeth Council publishes outline of police concerns about the reopening of Brixton Academy

By | Published on Friday 5 May 2023

Brixton Academy

Lambeth Council has published a document that was submitted last month setting out the concerns of London’s Metropolitan Police regarding the reopening of the Brixton Academy. It seeks to explain why the police force states that it has “lost confidence in the premises licence holder”.

The south London venue has been closed since last December when a crowd-crush occurred at a sold out Asake show, during which two people died.

The licensing subcommittee of Lambeth Council – which regulates the venue – initially suspended the Academy’s licence until mid-April. But last month it emerged that the Metropolitan Police, which continues to investigate what caused the crowd crush, had requested a full review of the venue’s licence, proposing it be revoked.

At the time, a spokesperson for the Live Nation-allied Academy Music Group, which operates the venue, said that it had had “regular meetings and discussions with the Metropolitan Police and Lambeth Council at which we have presented detailed proposals that we believe will enable the venue to reopen safely”.

“AMG has been awaiting feedback on those proposals for several weeks”, they then added, “and looks forward to hearing from the police as soon as possible in constructive terms”.

The police document published this week, but submitted on 14 Apr, provides some background to the crowd crush itself and the subsequent meetings of and decisions made by Lambeth Council’s licensing subcommittee.

It then talks about the ‘variation application’ and ‘event management plan’ submitted by AMG in January and February respectively as part of the company’s bid to get the venue reopened.

Responding to those proposals at the time, the police seemingly stated that they didn’t think it was “meaningful to propose remedial measures until it had been established what needed to be remedied”. With the Lambeth Licensing Authority apparently saying something similar, AMG withdrew its application on 14 Mar 2023.

A revised application and plan were then submitted by AMG later that month. However, the police force “remains of the view that ‘steps required to promote the licensing objectives in light of the serious incident at the premises on 15 Dec 2022’ cannot sensibly be determined until the cause or causes of the serious incident are better understood”.

“The [police force] has repeatedly asked AMG to assist in the identification of ‘what went wrong’ and how it is to be prevented from going wrong again”, the document then says.

“In an email to AMG’s solicitors (1 Mar 2023) the [Met] wrote: ‘It would greatly assist them in evaluating the proposed amendments … to know which (if any) of the identified causes of the incident on 15 Dec are addressed and by which proposed amendments’. AMG has resisted engaging with that request”.

The police also raise other issues with AMG in their document “[The Met] are concerned that at the interim steps hearing on 22 Dec 2022, AMG denied that the structural integrity of the doors to the Brixton Academy had been raised as an issue in February 2020”, it claims.

“Documentation produced at the full review on 16 Jan 2023 confirmed that the weakness of the doors was indeed raised in February 2020. Only when those notes were produced in evidence did AMG admit that the issue had previously been discussed with them”.

“Since the hearing of the summary review on 16 Jan 2023, AMG has focused on preventing the ‘crowding around the front doors of the premises'”, it goes on. In AMG’s explanatory note “they say – ‘The tragic events occurred because a large number of individuals were able to access the front doors of the premises simultaneously and enter the lobby area in an uncontrolled manner. The aim of the variation application is to obviate the risk of that occurring'”.

But, the police reckon “that is far too narrow an analysis of what went wrong on the night of 15 Dec. AMG appear to regard ‘the incident’ simply as the gathering of the crowd outside the entrance to the Academy and the ‘uncontrolled manner’ of their entry. What happened inside, however, is as much a part of the incident as what happened outside, if not more so: the fatalities occurred in the foyer”.

With all that in mind, the police force “has lost confidence in the premises licence holder. Regrettably, the agreed ‘variation solution’ suggested to the subcommittee at the review hearing on 16 Jan has not been successful in identifying the remedial measures which need to be in place before the Academy can safely reopen”.

It remains to be seen how the Lambeth Council subcommittee chooses to now proceed. A petition calling on the local authority to ensure that the Brixton Academy can continue to operate as a music venue has now passed 86,000 signatures.