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Culture Minister raises concerns over Met Police’s controversial Form 696

By | Published on Tuesday 28 March 2017

New Scotland Yard

Culture Minister Matt Hancock has written to London mayor Sadiq Khan over continued fears that the Metropolitan Police’s controversial Risk Assessment Form 696 is being used to racially profile music events in the capital. In particular, he raised concerns that its use is stifling the grime scene, pushing events out of London.

Form 696 asks for the names, stage names, addresses and phone numbers of all promoters and artists at an event where pre-recorded backing tracks are used. An earlier version of the document also asked about the genre of music being performed and likely ethnic make-up of the audience, though those questions were dropped in 2009 after a number of artists and music industry groups campaigned against what was seen as racial profiling.

Nevertheless, concerns have persisted about the form, and other similar documents now used by sixteen other British police forces, some of which – according to the BBC – still ask one or both of the more controversial questions dropped in London.

Writing to Khan about the Met Police’s continued use of Form 696, Hancock says: “I am concerned that the form is not only potentially stifling young artists and reducing the diversity of London’s world-renowned musical offering, but is also having a negative impact on the city’s night-time economy by pushing organisers and promoters of urban music events outside London”.

“Genres of urban music like grime have the same significance for today’s young people as punk did in the 1970s, empowering them, creating a new generation of musical heroes and growing to become a worldwide phenomenon”, he continues. “I would like to understand whether you think Form 696 is serving a justified purpose and working well, or whether there is a case for changing the current system”.

A spokesperson for Scotland Yard said that the form “does not target any particular group” adding that “we have good working relationships with promoters and venues alike and are confident the majority understand the need for Form 696”.

Meanwhile, in its own statement, City Hall said: “Our priority is to keep Londoners safe and support a vibrant night-time economy, and this means ensuring that all performances have the most appropriate security and safety plans in place. We have supported a number of events that bring together the Met, music venues, and promoters to try to improve the understanding of when and how Risk Assessment Form 696 should be used”.

Others view the form differently however, rapper P Money telling the BBC that he sees it as a “race thing”, saying: “It’s been happening for so many years that now we kind of know, it’s just our scene. [The police] target grime a lot, they just blame a lot of things on grime. We know they’re just trying to shut down grime, because if it was anything else they wouldn’t have this issue”.

“If, for example, Ed Sheeran had a show and a fight broke out, he’s not going to do a 696 on his next arena tour”, he continued. “A fight still might have broken out though, but they don’t look at it like that. They just think, ‘Oh it’s different for them’. Why is it different? There’s fights everywhere, there’s situations everywhere at all types of shows, all types of things, whether its punk, rock, hip hop, pop, whatever”.

UK Music was one of the organisations which campaigned against the more controversial questions on the original Form 696 back in the late 2000s. Its chief exec Jo Dipple has now welcomed Hancock’s letter to Khan, saying in a statement: “UK Music thanks the minister who has a track record of stepping in to support British musicians. It is important to make sure Form 696 is not being unfairly used against particular musical genres. Discrimination against any musician damages all of us. It reduces the diversity of our output and limits our ability to reach our economic potential”.

“British music is successful because it is diverse”, she continues. “It is right that government is stepping in on this issue and we will work with the minister, the Mayor’s office and the Metropolitan Police to properly examine and address any misuse of this form. It must be emphasised that this is not a criticism of the Met Police who do amazing work in very difficult circumstances”.

Dipple called for anyone who has first-hand experience of Form 696 being misused to contact UK Music.